One of the ever-constant truths of baseball? No two games are the same. In Sunday afternoon's matinee doubleheader at Coca-Cola Field, the Bisons and Red Wings showed why.
The first game marked a display of pitching and defensive prowess, with Buffalo's sole fourth-inning run being just enough for a 1-0 victory. In Game 2, one total run would have been irrelevant - bats lit up, runs were plentiful, and Rochester notched an 11-9 win.
All in all, it added up to a doubleheader split between the longtime Thruway foes.
Newly minted Bison Zack Wheeler got the call in the opener, and definitively showed why he deserves much of the hype bestowed upon him. Wheeler looked confident on the mound from the get-go and made it through all seven innings, allowing only three hits and two walks in the complete-game shutout.
As a result, Wheeler earned a much-deserved inaugural Triple-A win, improving his record to 1-2 as a member of the Herd.
The Bisons offense didn't do too much in support of Wheeler, but it was enough. After being held scoreless despite four hits in the first three innings, Buffalo got on the board in the 4th courtesy of Matt Den Dekker's sacrifice fly that scored Adam Loewen. Wheeler allowed only one hit the rest of the way, and the Herd escaped Game 1 on top.
In Game 2, the Bisons sent an early sign that offense would be more abundant this time around. Leadoff man Fred Lewis launched a solo home run to begin the bottom of the 1st, and Buffalo jumped out to a 4-0 lead when the inning was all said and done.
But the Red Wings countered in the very next frame, with three runs of their own. Consecutive walks to begin the inning set the tone, and a two-out double by Matt Carson scored a pair to pull Rochester within a run. After both teams combined for one run in the first game, seven were scored through an inning and a half in Game 2. Quite a contrast, to say the least.
Rochester wasn't nearly done, by any means. After slugger Valentino Pascucci homered in the 3rd to extend the Buffalo lead to 5-3, the Wings responded with three runs in the 4th, and then four more in the 5th. Hence, Rochester held a 10-5 lead heading into the bottom of the 5th - after Buffalo owned a four-run advantage in the 1st. Just a typical day at the ballpark, of course.
Fittingly, the Bisons refused to go down without a fight, and battled back in the final frames to make things interesting. Buffalo clawed back with two runs in the 5th - courtesy of a two-run homer from Matt Tuiasosopo - and added two more in the 6th thanks to another two-run blast, this one off the bat of Zach Lutz.
Now, the Red Wings advantage was just a single run: 10-9. The stage was set for a frantic conclusion in downtown Buffalo.
But the Herd couldn't complete the comeback. After Carson doubled a run home to give the Wings an 11-9 advantage in the 7th, the Bisons needed two in the final frame to force extra time. It got off to a good start, with Loewen and Josh Satin reaching base to start the frame - putting the tying run on first, and the winning run at the plate.
It wasn't enough, though. Rochester reliever Anthony Slama worked his way through the next three Bisons batters, and the ballgame was over. Slama induced a Fred Lewis groundout to close the deal.
Bisons Notes: Shortstop Josh Rodriguez recorded a multi-hit game for the Herd in Game 1. Lewis and Tuiasosopo notched multi-hit efforts in Game 2...In Game 1, the Bisons went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position, leaving six men on base. In Game 2, the Herd went 2-for-9 in the same situation, leaving seven men on.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.