Artvoice: Buffalo's #1 Newsweekly
Home Blogs Web Features Calendar Listings Artvoice TV Real Estate Classifieds Contact

Bisons update – what a week at Coca Cola Field

Bisons
It’s a shame that the weather has been so unsettled and so cold that more people didn’t experience the recent home stand at Coca Cola Field.

The Buffalo Bisons hit the road tomorrow for eight games, and they will be flying out of Buffalo on cloud nine, after going 7-1 on the just finished home stand against the Louisville Bats and the Charlotte Knights. The team toyed with a no-hitter thanks to the fabulous pitching of Marcus Stroman, got solid pitching from the rest of the rotation, clutch hitting from several hot bats in the Bisons lineup, including outfielder Kevin Pillar, and veritable eye candy of defensive plays, including four gems just this afternoon from newly demoted seconded baseman Ryan Goins.

“Winning is infectious, when things are going well it feeds on itself,” said Manager Gary Allenson. He has had to deal with several roster moves during the week, and Stroman was called to Toronto on Saturday night to help fill a depleted and struggling bullpen with the big club.

Stroman’s performance on Tuesday night was nothing short of amazing. He struck out 10 batters through 6 innings, and at one point retired 16 straight batters. When he left the mound after the 6th, he was still looking strong out there, and visions of a possible no hitter, which has only occurred once at the downtown ballpark (Bartolo Colon, 1997), were being thought about. Sadly, Stroman never got the chance. He was lifted by manager Allenson, most likely due to pitch count concerns and his imminent promotion to Toronto which had to limit his performance.

On Saturday, it was Kevin Pillar doing the heroics. The Bisons won in come from behind fashion, 6-5, with a walk off triple with no outs in the bottom of the 9th plating two runs. “Who doesn’t like to win in that fashion?” said a beaming Pillar, who was mobbed by his teammates after the game winning hit. “I never even considered the bunt sign,” said Allenson, who had runners at first and second an no outs. “I told Pillar, go out there and be a hero.” And after fouling off several pitches, Pillar did just that, launching a towering ball to right center field which split the defenders.

It was more of the same on Sunday. Buffalo and Charlotte were tied at 3 in the 8th inning. Darin Mastroianni and Ryan Goins did back to back singles which each drove in the go ahead two runs. Bobby Korecky pitched perfect 9th, and just like that, the Bisons had themselves their first sweep of Charlotte at home since 2004.

“What was it, 28 degrees out there?” quipped Allenson as he remarked about the unusually cold weather. “I think it’s going to be 87 in Gwinnett tomorrow.”

Good weather and warm temperatures might be a good tonic for The Herd as they travel to Gwinnett, Georgia and then the new ballpark in Charlotte, North Carolina. But the way they played this past week, right now they look unstoppable. They are in first place in the International League North Division.

HOMESTAND SUMMARY

April 2014
26 vs. Louisville, W 6-2 (WP: S. Nolin; LP: T. Crabbe; SV: B. Korecky)
27 vs. Louisville, L 1-2 (WP: C. Wang; LP: G. Infante; SV: J. Diaz)
28 vs. Louisville, W 17-5 (WP: K. Drabek; LP: C. Reineke)
29 vs. Louisville, W 4-1 (WP: M. Stroman; LP: J. Francis; SV: N. Wagner)

May 2014
1 vs. Charlotte, W 6-1 (WP: L. Hendriks; LP: T. Hanson)
2 vs. Charlotte, W 1-0 (WP: A. Bibens-Dirkx; LP: D. Veal)
3 vs. Charlotte, W 6-5 (WP: R. Tepera; LP: D. Purcey)
4 vs. Charlotte, W 5-3 (WP: J. Stilson; LP: M. Boggs; SV: B. Korecky)


Bisons split with PawSox, Francisco new secret weapon

franciscoYesterday at Coca Cola Field, the Buffalo Bisons had just tied the game at five with the Pawtucket Red Sox in the bottom of the 9th. There were runners on second and third with two outs, and Bisons’ first baseman Juan Francisco was stepping to the plate.

So what did the PawSox do? They intentionally walked Francisco. The gambit worked, the PawSox got out of the inning, and would eventually win the game 7-5 in 12 innings to earn the split of the four game series.

So who exactly is Juan Francisco?

Just some guy the Blue Jays picked up off the waiver wire. The Jays claimed him on April 1, after Spring Training had broken up, and assigned him to the Buffalo Bisons. Francisco has been a terror since coming to the club, and although it’s very early, so far he has posted a .406 batting average with two home runs. On Friday night at the ballpark, he came up a home run short of batting for the cycle.

Any comparisons to Jim Negrych? Last year’s second base phenm maintained a batting average well over .400 throughout more than half of the season before slowing down in the dog days of summer.

Manager Gary Allenson was clearly agitated following yesterday’s loss, looking at the PawSox series and realizing that his team most likely could have swept all four games. Thursday’s outing was tough; the team played a doubleheader the night before in Lehigh Valley, one of the two games went extra innings, and finishing right around midnight, then had to endure a seven hour bus ride home throughout the night. After Sunday’s game, Allenson groused “I looked up at the scoreboard in the 11th inning, and I saw only three base hits. We didn’t make good adjustments with the bats today.”

The Bisons now move on for four games against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders, affiliate of the New York Yankees. Tonight’s “Markdown Monday” should be played in summer like conditions, with a front moving through that will chill things significantly for Tuesday night. It’s a 6:05pm start time Monday through Wednesday, with a 1:05pm matinee to end the home stand on Thursday.


The Bisons have a new manager

BisonsThere were more than a few raised eyebrows late last year, when the highly respected and popular manager of the Buffalo Bisons, Marty Brown, abruptly announced that he was leaving the Toronto Blue Jays organization and not returning to Buffalo to manage the Bisons in 2014.

Brown had quite a following here in Buffalo and was very well liked within the Bisons’ organization. He led Buffalo to its last league championship back in 2004, when the Bisons won the International League Governors Cup. Last year, on his return to Buffalo, his team fell just short of qualifying for the postseason playoffs, yet hopes are still high that the team would take that next step and return to the postseason for the first time since 2005.

Enter Gary Allenson.

Allenson will be starting his 20th season as a manager at the minor league level, eight of those years spent in the International League. Last season, he managed the Blue Jays’ AA affiliate in Manchester, New Hampshire. He was introduced to the media, and then to the public, at the Bisons’ annual Hot Stove Luncheon at the Adams Mark Hotel downtown on Thursday.

“It’s a great league. It’s a competitive league, and it’s a tougher league than that other league (the PCL),” said Allenson. “It’s a man’s league and I’m happy to be here.”

For the Bisons, Allenson will have a strong familiarity with many of his roster players, some of whom played for him at AA last season. Toronto Blue Jays VP and General Manager Alex Anthopoulos was also on hand, and promised that the Buffalo team should be well stocked going into 2014. “I think we have a stronger roster here than last year,” said Anthopoulos, who is still dealing with the crushing disappointment of last years’ results at the big league level when expectations for Toronto were red hot.

Allenson readily admitted that he knows he has some big shoes to fill in replacing Marty Brown, also stating that he had little interaction with his fellow manager, other than on the phone discussions regarding things such as player call ups and individual player issues. “He was in big league camp, and I talked with him on the phone I would deal with player performance, that sort of thing. He’s a class guy. He’s a baseball man and has been in baseball for a while. I don’t know the reason why things didn’t work out and why he left but he’s a good man as far as I know.”

Buffalo will open their 27th year of professional baseball downtown at Coca Cola Field on Thursday, April 4 vs the Rochester Red Wings. Opening Day is just 76 days away.