There will be no postseason for the Buffalo Bisons this year. What has been plainly obvious the last three days became official Thursday night when Scranton/Wilkes-Barre pasted Ottawa, 10-3, to end the Herd's hopes of a third straight playoff championship.
The Bisons, meanwhile, evened their record at 69-69 with a 12-4 drubbing of Rochester at Dunn Tire Park. Buffalo blew the game open with an eight-run fifth, its biggest inning of the year.
A crowd of 10,786 was wowed by all the offense and the strong pitching of Cleveland right-hander Jaret Wright, down on an injury rehabilitation assignment.
The Indians' 1997 postseason hero, who was two outs away from being the winning pitcher in Game Seven of the World Series at Florida, pitched three hitless innings.
Wright struck out four and retired the final nine men he faced after Darrell Dent led off the game by reaching on an error by Buffalo shortstop John McDonald. Wright has been on Cleveland's disabled list due to a strained back muscle behind his right (throwing) shoulder.
Wright threw 40 pitches, 29 for strikes, and 17 of his pitches were clocked at 95 mph or better on the ballpark radar gun.
"I wasn't going to hold anything back," Wright said. "I knew I was on a pitch count, so I wanted to come out and see how it felt. I wanted to work the fastball and it felt pretty good."
Wright's injury first occurred July 11 in Cincinnati, but he didn't reveal it to the team's medical staff until after a July 18 start at Houston and went on the DL. After being activated Aug. 3, he made two starts and went back on the DL on Aug. 9 because his shoulder still hurt.
Wright had a solid 15-minute bullpen session Tuesday in Cleveland with pitching coach Phil Regan and came to Buffalo. He'll throw again Monday, although it has yet to be determined if it will be here in the Bisons' season finale against Rochester or at Double-A Akron.
"We're real cautious on this one," he said. "I came back a little too early the first time off the DL and injured it a little more . . . It felt good today."
Expected to perhaps anchor the Cleveland rotation, Wright (7-7, 5.94 ERA) has had a turbulent season. He has been the center of two bench-clearing brawls, and has been hit with a five-game suspension, $1,000 fine and a meeting with American League President Gene Budig for allegedly throwing at batters.
On the Indians' postseason pecking order, the injury and his inconsistency has suddenly slipped Wright behind Bartolo Colon, Charles Nagy and Dave Burba.
"There's always competition. That's still a great part about the game," he said. "One guy does you better and it is contagious. . . . Hopefully I can stay in there and get some postseason innings."
Wright left with the Bisons holding a 1-0 lead. Buffalo scored three runs in the fourth to snap a 1-1 tie and poured it on in the fifth by sending 12 men to the plate. The big hit was Jolbert Cabrera's two-out, three-run triple that rolled to the wall in deep right-center.
The Bisons play the first of back-to-back doubleheaders today at Scranton (6, Radio 1520). The first game is the resumption of a July 9 suspended contest that has the Bisons leading, 5-0, in the bottom of the fifth.
Prior to the game, the Bisons announced that injured infielders Russell Branyan and Chan Perry and pitcher Paul Rigdon would miss the final five days of the season. All left the club Thursday for evaluation in Cleveland and there was no word on the severity of their injuries.
Branyan (.211, 30 homers, 67 RBIs) and Perry (.281-10-59) are both suffering from wrist troubles. Branyan has not played since last Saturday at Syracuse, while Perry was hurt Monday against Ottawa. Branyan finished with a franchise-record 180 strikeouts -- 19 shy of the IL record -- in 380 at-bats.
Rigdon injured his elbow while working four innings in Wednesday's 3-1 loss to Rochester. He was 7-4 with a 4.53 ERA in 19 starts for Buffalo after posting stellar numbers (7-0, 0.90) at Akron.