Buffalo Bison starters are in such a groove they now believe they can produce outs to order.
What Bob Patterson wanted with a man on third and one out in the ninth inning Saturday night was a strikeout.
What he got was a foul out down the right-field line that moved him one step closer to his second straight complete game.
But when the out turned into a sacrifice fly, Patterson trudged back to the mound in disgust. If the rules allowed, he may have declined the out and replayed the at-bat.
Yes, the Bisons beat the Syracuse Chiefs, 4-1, at MacArthur Stadium to complete a sweep of the three-game series and extend their winning streak to a season-high six games.
But to Patterson (5-2), who was riding a streak of 21 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings, that one run was a heartbreaker.
"Don't even ask me about the last inning," Patterson said, only partly in jest. "There was nothing else on my mind but striking him (Hector Delacruz) out. I think the pitch was up and in, and that's where I wanted it."
First baseman Jeff King roamed down the line and made the difficult catch, permitting Sil Campusano, who had doubled and advanced to third on a deep fly out, to score uncontested.
"Jeff King made an excellent catch, and that's what he had to do in that situation," said Patterson. "If you can catch the ball, you have to take the out. You can't worry about the shutout."
The run was only the third allowed by Bison starters over the
last 53 innings. In its last turn through the rotation, the staff allowed only two runs in 38 innings.
The streak has prompted pitching coach Jackie Brown to make what, for him, is a daring prediction. "If we do that the rest of the year," Brown said, "I'll guarantee you we'll win a few games."
Indeed, maybe all of them.
Especially now that the offense is making its presence felt. Even catcher Dann Bilardello, who entered with a .156 average, joined the party by going 4 for 4 and driving in three runs.
The Bisons, who never trailed at any point in the series, jumped ahead in the sixth when Bilardello grounded a single to right, was sacrificed to second by Jeff Cook and scored on a Sammy Khalifa double to right.
Bilardello's third hit -- another grounder through the right side -- drove in two runs as the Bisons moved ahead, 3-0, in the seventh. After Reggie Williams started the two-out rally with a double, Bobby Meacham drew a walk. A double-steal allowed Meacham to join Williams in scoring position.
The bottom third of the order clicked again in the eighth, finishing Syracuse starter Mark Ross (5-3) and upping the lead to 4-0. Consecutive singles by Williams, Meacham and Bilardello -- the latter yet another grounder through the right side -- produced the run.
"Every at-bat I was trying to go that way (opposite field)," said Bilardello, who became the sixth current Bison to reach 30 years of age when he celebrated his birthday Friday. "Some of them barely got through, but that's baseball."
For Bilardello, it was also somewhat of a relief.
Although he has exceled at handling the pitching staff, Bilardello has wanted to make additional contributions.
"Anytime you get an opportunity to play you don't want to be a one-dimensional player," he said. "It's a good feeling to help the club out now and then."
The Bisons will open a three-game series against Rochester at Silver Stadium at 2:05 this afternoon (WGR). Buffalo's scheduled starters for the series are Dorn Taylor, Morris Madden and Rick Reed.
Outfielder Albert Hall took batting practice with the Bisons Friday and Saturday. Idle since being released by the Atlanta Braves during spring training, Hall had trouble pulling the ball Friday but was stroking line drives Saturday.
The Pittsburgh Pirates signed Hall, a 31-year-old switch-hitter, to a Triple A contract last week.