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BISONS DO JUST ENOUGH
GAUTREAU AND RELIEVERS NAIL DOWN A CLOSE ONE

The offense continues to be meek and infielder Jake Gautreau is one of a slew of Buffalo Bisons on the offenders' list.

But the Herd is surviving thanks to some solid pitching and just enough timely hitting.

Gautreau belted a leadoff homer in the 10th inning Wednesday night and three relievers strung together five scoreless innings as the Bisons overcame the Syracuse SkyChiefs, 2-1, in chilly Alliance Bank Stadium.

The Bisons (4-3) had just five hits and are batting an International League-worst .208. But they have managed to get above .500 and post their first two-game winning streak of the season.

"To be able to scratch and claw and get these W's has been really big," said Gautreau, who was just 3 for 18 until jumping on a full-count pitch from Syracuse reliever Jason Arnold. "We've got guys who can hit on this club. We're going to hit all year long. We've just gotten off a little slow. As long as nobody panics and tries to do too much, we'll be all right."

Gautreau was nearly retired in the 10th but Arnold's 2-2 pitch was called a ball as Gautreau was able to hold up his swing. Gautreau made no mistake on Arnold's next delivery, turning around a fastball with a towering drive to right. Syracuse's Chad Mottola tried to climb the wall and got his glove over the top of the fence but was unable to pull the ball back.

"The 2-2 was definitely pretty close," Gautreau said. "I wouldn't have been surprised if they had rung me up on it but luckily it went my way. I knew I hit the next pitch decent."

It was the second home run of the season for the 25-year-old Gautreau, who was acquired from San Diego in a winter trade for Corey Smith in a swap of former No. 1 draft choices who have yet to make the majors. Gautreau (.266, 19 homers, 65 RBIs last year between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Portland) was blocked in San Diego by third baseman Sean Burroughs and second baseman Mark Loretta. Of course, Cleveland is pretty set at those positions as well with Aaron Boone and Ronnie Belliard.

"I don't look at it as he failed because we gave up a very talented player in Corey Smith to get him," manager Marty Brown said. "It was two organizations who felt it was better for both of these guys to put on a different uniform and see if the talent people saw when they drafted them would rise up."

"San Diego thought I was on the verge of going to the next level, but there wasn't room for me," Gautreau said. "I just have to keep working here, too. Aaron Boone is a great player, but you can't worry about who's in front of you. You just do your job."

Gautreau was San Diego's top pick in 2001 out of Tulane and the No. 1 label is often tough for a prospect to shake as he struggles to climb through the minors.

"If you let that label get to you, it can be a little tough," he said. "But once you get in pro ball, no matter where you're drafted, you're just another one of the guys. You have to play well to get to the next level. That's what's important, not worrying about whether you can prove you were worthy of being drafted there."

Shortstop Brandon Phillips went 0 for 5 to drop his average to .111 but made the game's key defensive play, erasing Justin Singleton's leadoff double in the Syracuse eighth by diving to tag Singleton scampering back to second on Aaron Hill's hot one-hopper to the hole. . . . Outfielder John Rodriguez snapped an 0-for-20 slump with a first-inning single. But Ernie Young, who was 9 for 18, struck out in all four of his at-bats. . . . There were 2,921 tickets sold but only about 200 fans braved wind-chills in the 30s. . . . The four-game, two-city series concludes at 6 tonight (Radio 1230 and 1330 AM) with Buffalo's Kyle Denney (0-1) throwing against Syracuse right-hander Francisco Rosario (0-1).
e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com