The pain from Sid Bream's sore right knee in Pittsburgh was felt all the way to Silver Stadium Tuesday night.
Moments after the Buffalo Bisons held on for a 7-6 victory over the Rochester Red Wings, they learned thatfirst baseman Jeff King, the team's home run and RBI leader, was being recalled by the parent Pittsburgh Pirates.
The move was necessitated by the recurrence of Bream's knee problems which will require a second arthroscopic surgery.
The Herd has been hit hard by Pittsburgh recalls all season, but losing King couldn't have come at a worse time. The Bisons were hoping to make a big attendance push as well as close in on the leaders in the Eastern Division of the American Association.
The Bisons are scheduled to begin a 10-game home stand at Pilot Field tonight in the opener of a four-game series against second-place Nashville. Buffalo is in third place, four games behind the Sounds.
"I'll tell you one thing, it's going to leave a big hole in the middle of our batting order," Bisons manager Terry Collins said of the loss of King, adding that he wasn't certain who would be the replacement at first base. "Steve Henderson can play first and so can Scott Little," Collins said.
King went 2-for-4 against Rochester to raise his batting average to .256 and drove in his 28th and 29th runs as Buffalo captured the deciding game of the six-game Triple-A Alliance series with the International League Red Wings. Buffalo won the abbreviated season series from the Wings, 4-2, and is now 10-2 against International League competition.
The Buffalo bullpen, which hasn't exactly shone brightly in the first two games here, finally came through. Scott Medvin pitched the last 1 2/3 innings to pick up his sixth save, striking out pinch hitter Billy Moore for the final out with the tying run at second.
"Scott can get it done," Collins said. "He showed that in the last home stand. When he's been used, he's gotten them out."
Recent inactivity because the starters have pitched so well is blamed for the bullpen's recent lack of effectiveness.
Starter and winner Rick Reed (3-6) seemed to be breezing along and took a 7-2 lead (both Rochester runs to that point were unearned) when suddenly he lost his effectiveness.
Chris Hoiles led off the Rochester seventh with a towering home run over the left field wall. Before Reed could pitch out of the inning, two more Red Wings runners crossed the plate to make it a 7-5 game.
Reed had retired 14 consecutive batters, but sat for a long time as the Herd scored three runs in the top half of the inning. Adding to the long inning were two Rochester pitching changes. However, The Bisons right-hander wouldn't use that as an excuse.
"I just lost it," Reed said. "I started to get the ball up. I was lucky to get out of the inning before that."
Reed's sudden loss of effectiveness surprised Collins, though. "He was throwing the ball good, then he just got
some pitches out in the middle of the strike zone."
The Bisons fell behind on two unearned runs in the second inning, the result of an obstruction call against catcher Andy Hall on a rundown play. The call erased an apparent out and allowed one Rochester run to score and led to the second.
Buffalo struck for three runs against lefty Mike Jones (2-1) to take the lead for good in the third. Two of the runs were unearned because Rochester center fielder Walt Harris misplayed Sammy Khalifa's RBI single for a two-base error, allowing Albert Hall to score from first and sending Khalifa all the way to third. Khalifa was run down and thrown out on Jay Bell's infield grounder, but Bell hustled to second and scored on King's single to right.
Andy Hall poked a single through the right side to send home Reggie Williams, to make it 4-2 in the fourth. Williams (3-for-4) had started the inning with a double to right center.
Rochester reliever Texas Mike Smith threw away Khalifa's bunt single allowing two Buffalo runners to cross in the seventh. King's sacrifice fly drove in Khalifa with a third run.
That made it 7-2, but the Wings got three in their half of the seventh to make it 7-5.
Reed who was struck on the right hand deflecting Harold Perkins' shot through the box on the final out in the seventh, left in favor of Dave Rucker to begin the eighth.
Rucker got into trouble almost immediately. After Bell, who had a brilliant night in the field at third base, short-hopped Tim Hulett's bouncer while ranging to his left for the first out, lefty-swinging Francisco Melendez grounded a single to right.
Collins decided to take no chances with Hoiles, who already had hit two homers in the series. He brought in the right-handed Medvin to pitch to the Rochester catcher. The Buffalo reliever struck out Hoiles but Keith Hughes' double to the right field corner drove in Melendez to make it a one-run game.
Chris Padget began the Rochester ninth with a single to center and moved up on Tim Dulin's sacrifice. But Medvin retired Harris on one pitch (fly to left), then got ahead of Moore, 0-2, before striking out the veteran utility man.
Thus the Bisons return home with a 27-24 record and seemed to have regained some of the momentum lost in dropping the first two games of the series here by lopsided scores. That, though, was before the news of the King recall, which threatens to place an even heavier burden on the Buffalo pitching staff.