With second place in the American Association secured, Buffalo Bisons' pitching ace Joe Roa could zero in on a milestone victory.
He did not disappoint. The right-hander tossed a three-hitter and became the Bisons' first 17-game winner in 38 years in a 7-2 victory over the Indianapolis Indians at Bush Stadium.
No Buffalo player had won 17 games in a season since Walt Craddock went 18-8 in 1957 for the International League Bisons. In addition, Roa (17-3) becomes the winningest pitcher in Class AAA ball since Mike Bielecki notched 19 for Hawaii in 1984.
Buffalo actually clinched second place and home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs before taking the field because of third-place Omaha's 9-7 loss to Iowa.
The Bisons have decided to play the first two games in the best-of-five series on the road beginning next Wednesday, most likely at Omaha. Buffalo will host Game Three next Friday.
The championship series is more than a week away, but should Buffalo and Indianapolis both advance, Thursday's win might provide some extra confidence for the Bisons.
The Herd finished the regular season with a 14-10 record against the Indians, including a 9-3 slate at Bush Stadium. The Tribe had their troubles against Roa in particular, going 1-4 against him.
Roa continued his mastery of Indianapolis by limiting the team to three hits while striking out eight and walking just one in seven innings.
The Bisons are now 20-4 when Roa starts.
The big offensive blows for Buffalo came from Brian Giles, who clubbed a two-run homer in the first inning and Frank Bolick, who added a two-run shot in the ninth.
Buffalo closes the regular season with a four-game series in Nashville. John Farrell (11-8) gets the start tonight (8:15 p.m., Radio 550) for the Bisons against Andrew Lorraine (3-1).
Meanwhile, rookie relief pitcher Danny Graves was promoted from Double A Canton-Akron Thursday. He entered the game in the ninth, retiring the side.