The Syracuse Chiefs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, fell victim to a late Buffalo rally in a 6-5 loss to the Bisons on Thursday night. Buffalo tied the game with a two-run sixth inning and took the lead when Lucas May barely beat out a potential inning-ending double play ground ball in the eighth. Syracuse rallied in the top of the ninth with a run, but Fernando Cabrera struck out Brett Carroll with runners on second and third. The Chiefs will look to even the four-game series on Thursday night.
Syracuse (10-17) and Buffalo (16-11) traded volleys early on, with the Chiefs striking the first blow. Corey Brown led off the game with a single against Bisons right-hander Jeurys Familia, and three batters later, Carroll walked. With runners at first and third and two outs, Carroll attempted a steal of second. Catcher Rob Johnson's throw beat Carroll to the base, but second baseman Brad Emaus dropped the ball, with Brown scoring on the error.
The Bisons answered with a few two-out hits against Syracuse starter Mitch Atkins. In the bottom of the first, Josh Satin doubled and scored on an RBI single from Fred Lewis. In the second, Familia helped his own case on the mound with his first professional RBI, a double to left field to score Johnson and give the Bisons a 2-1 lead.
A two-run third inning put Syracuse back in the lead. Carroll's one-out double down the left field line scored Mark Teahen to even the game, and two batters later, Carlos Maldonado gashed a run-scoring single to give the Chiefs a 3-2 advantage.
That hit wouldn't be the last blow from the veteran catcher. In the sixth inning, Maldonado crushed a D.J. Carrasco pitch over the left-center field wall, doubling the Syracuse lead to 4-2. The home run was Maldonado's first of the season - and his first since August 2, 2011.
But the two-run lead would be short-lived. Johnson led off the bottom of the sixth by ripping a 2-0 pitch from Atkins to left-center field for a home run, a blast to nearly the same spot as Maldonado's homer. After an Omar Quintanilla fly out, pinch-hitter Michael Fisher blooped a single to center field. Center fielder Dustin Martin then zapped a double into right-center field to score Fisher and tie the game, though Martin was thrown out at third base on the play.
The Bisons broke the tie in the bottom of the eighth inning. With reliever Hassan Pena on the mound, Brad Emaus led off with a single to left field and Johnson followed with a double to right field, putting runners on second and third base with nobody out. Left-hander Cory VanAllen then entered to face pinch-hitter Valentino Pascucci, and VanAllen struck out Pascucci swinging on a 2-2 pitch.
After an intentional walk to pinch-hitter Bobby Scales, Bisons manager Wally Backman summoned right-handed Lucas May to pinch hit for the lefty-hitting Martin - a third straight Bisons pinch-hitter. Chiefs manager Tony Beasley matched the move, bringing in right-handed reliever Pat Lehman. With the bases loaded and out, May grounded Lehman's second pitch to shortstop for a potential double play. But after the throw to second base was on time, Lehman barely beat out Jim Negrych's throw to first, scoring to give the Bisons a 5-4 lead. Vinny Rottino then added a key insurance run with a single to center field, scoring Johnson to put Buffalo on top 6-4.
That final run came into play in the ninth inning because of a two-out Syracuse rally. After Cabrera retired the inning's first two batters, Corey Brown reached on a ground ball to first when Cabrera dropped the throw to the base for an error. Negrych then singled, moving Brown to third, and Teahen launched a double to left-center field to score Brown and cut the deficit to 5-4. But with the go-ahead and tying runs on base, Cabrera struck out Carroll on an 0-2 pitch to end the game.
Syracuse and Buffalo will finish their four-game series on Friday night at 7:05. The Chiefs are scheduled to send right-hander Tanner Roark to the mound against Bisons right-hander Jeremy Hefner.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.