The Syracuse Chiefs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, used a sterling pitching performance from Aaron Laffey in a 6-3 win over the Buffalo Bisons on Saturday night from Coca-Cola Field. The left-hander tossed seven innings of two-run ball, and the Chiefs picked up 11 hits to begin their four-game series with a win. The victory moved first-place Syracuse to 10 games over .500 for the first time since 2010.
Syracuse (36-26) picked up the game's opening runs in the first inning against right-hander Kyle Drabek. With two outs and nobody on, Steven Souza, Jr. doubled to right field, before Tyler Moore followed with a walk. Left fielder Zach Walters then bashed a two-run triple into the right-center field gap to score both runners, giving the Chiefs a 2-0 lead.
The heart of Syracuse's order added to the total again in the fifth. Souza smashed another two-out double to right field, and Moore followed with an RBI double to the left-center field gap.
In the sixth inning, the Chiefs added a fourth run against reliever Esmil Rogers - again with a two-out, none-on rally. Brandon Laird was hit by a pitch and advanced to second on a wild pitch, and catcher Sandy Leon followed with a line-drive single to right field. Laird slid in with his left hand ahead of the tag to score and give Syracuse a 4-0 lead.
Buffalo (29-30) finally struck in the bottom of the inning. Shortstop Jonathan Diaz led off the frame with a double, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on an RBI groundout by A.J. Jimenez.
In the seventh, the Bisons grabbed another run. First baseman Dan Johnson started the inning with a solo home run to right field, cutting the lead to 4-2. Laffey, however, retired the next three batters on groundouts to conclude his night. In seven innings, he allowed just five hits and two runs, striking out four batters to no walks.
The Chiefs would pad their lead in the ninth against left-hander Mike Zagurski. Leon started the inning with a double, bringing up leadoff batter Josh Johnson. The Syracuse shortstop laid down a sacrifice bunt, advancing Leon to third base, with Zagurski throwing wide of first for an error to allow Johnson to reach. Will Rhymes followed with a walk to load the bases. Two batters later, Moore walked to force in a run, driving in Leon for a 5-2 lead and knocking Zagurski out of the game. Southpaw Ryan Rowland-Smith entered, and Walters greeted him with a first-pitch single to left field, scoring Rhymes for a 6-2 Chiefs lead.
Buffalo tacked on a run in the ninth when Dan Johnson drove in Jimenez with a sacrifice fly against Mike Gonzalez. The left-hander, however, would retire the next two batters he faced to close out the win.
Syracuse and Buffalo will resume their series on Sunday afternoon at 1:05 in a matchup of the league's two best starting pitchers by ERA. Chiefs right-hander Taylor Hill (8-1, 1.57 ERA) and Bisons right-hander Liam Hendriks (5-0, 1.91 ERA) are the scheduled starters.