The Syracuse Chiefs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, split a doubleheader with the Buffalo Bisons Monday night in Syracuse. The Chiefs came back to win game one, 5-4, but Matt den Dekker's grand slam fueled the Bisons to a 4-3 game two win.
In game one, Buffalo (57-59) got the scoring started in the top of the second inning against Syracuse starter Zach Duke. Three consecutive one-out singles capped by a run-scoring infield hit by den Dekker gave the Bisons a 1-0 lead.
The Bisons tacked on two more runs in the top of the third inning. Josh Rodriguez drilled a solo shot over the left-field wall to put Buffalo up 2-0. Next up, Lucas Duda pounded a home run over the right-field fence on a line to make the score 3-0 Bisons.
Duke settled down from there to give up just those three runs on five hits while striking out a season-high eight batters in six innings.
Meanwhile, Buffalo starter Zack Wheeler, in his Triple-A debut, cruised early. He didn't allow a run on just one hit and struck out seven over the game's first four innings, but the Chiefs got to him in the bottom of the fifth inning. Brett Carroll singled to lead off the frame and moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Duke. After Eury Perez walked to put runners on first and second, Wheeler hit Jarrett Hoffpauir with a pitch to load the bases. Then, Corey Brown hit a sacrifice fly to left field that scored Carroll for the Chiefs' first run. Carlos Rivero followed with a ground-ball single to left that plated Perez and cut the Syracuse deficit to 3-2. Rivero's single chased Wheeler from the game, but Justin Hampson worked out of a bases-loaded jam to preserve the Buffalo lead.
Syracuse (55-61) then came back to take the lead for good in the bottom of the sixth inning. Catcher Sandy Leon started the inning with his first Triple-A hit, a single. Leon advanced to second base on a bunt from Brett Carroll. Jim Negrych followed with a pinch-hit double that was torpedoed down the right-field line to score Leon. Negrych's first RBI in 43 at-bats evened the score at three. Perez then bounced a single up the middle to drive home a sliding Negrych, who avoided the tag by catcher Mike Nickeas, for the Chiefs' fourth run. Next, Hoffpauir split the gap in right-center field for a double that scored Perez and handed Syracuse a 5-4 lead.
Buffalo made one last charge in the top of the seventh inning. Hassan Pena retired the first two Bisons batters of the inning, but Nickeas doubled to left-center field. Then, Brad Emaus rolled a base hit to left field that was bobbled by Perez to allow Nickeas to score and Emaus, the tying run, to reach second. With Fred Lewis batting, Emaus moved to third on a wild pitch, but Pena recovered to strike out Lewis looking for the final out.
Game two was decided in the bottom of the second inning. Buffalo, the home team in the nightcap because of Sunday's rainout, loaded the bases against Syracuse starter Erik Arnesen. With the bases loaded and two outs, den Dekker crushed the eighth pitch of his at-bat over the manual scoreboard in right-center field for a grand slam. Den Dekker's eighth homer of the year put the Bisons up 4-0.
The bats were silent from there until the top of the seventh and final inning. With one out, Hoffpauir doubled and Carlos Maldonado singled to put runners on first and third base. Reliever C.J. Nitkowski entered and got Mark Teahen to bounce a grounder to shortstop that looked like a sure double play. Instead, Rodriguez had the ball roll under his glove and into left field. Hoffpauir scored to cut the Chiefs' deficit to 4-1. Perez followed with a ground-ball double down the right-field line to drive home Maldonado for Syracuse's second run. After Perez scored on a Negrych groundout, Nitkowski struck out Brown with the tying run on third to preserve the 4-3 Buffalo win.
Syracuse and Buffalo wrap up their six-game stretch Tuesday night at 7:00 at Alliance Bank Stadium. Yunesky Maya is scheduled to start for Syracuse. Collin McHugh is set to pitch for Buffalo.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.