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HERD'S CRUCETA STRUGGLES IN LOSS

A shaky day on the mound for starter Francisco Cruceta put the Buffalo Bisons back below the .500 mark.

Cruceta gave up four runs on five hits in just three innings as the Herd dropped a 9-4 decision to the Pawtucket Red Sox in front of 10,140 at McCoy Stadium Sunday afternoon.

Cruceta (1-1) added three walks, three strikeouts and two hit batters to his line. He gave up two home runs to PawSox rightfielder Mike Lockwood -- both on 1-0 pitches.

Lockwood hit a leadoff homer in the second inning and a two-run shot in the third.

"We didn't make pitches, bottom line," Herd manager Marty Brown said. "I'd like to be able to say Mr. Lockwood did it all but we helped him out immensely because we didn't locate. We didn't hit location at all.

"(Cruceta) had a solid outing his first time out and today he kind of got away from his fastball and threw a lot of off-speed stuff. I just think today he was stubborn and felt he didn't have the fastball he should have had. . . . You want somebody to pitch their game with conviction but you can't do it without a fastball at this level or the next."

The Herd took a 1-0 lead in the first when Mike Kinkade scored from third on a balk by PawSox starter Chris Narveson. Brandon Phillips doubled in George Lombard in the second and Dusty Wathan had a solo home run in the fifth to bring the Herd within one -- 4-3.

But Pawtucket scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth off reliever Kenny Rayborn to open an 8-3 lead. Rayborn let a run score on a wild pitch that inning while Pawtucket's Alejandro Machado tripled in another.

Jake Gautreau homered in the sixth, but Buffalo stranded runners at second and third in the eighth and went down in order in the ninth.

Gautreau was the only Bison with more than one hit, going 2 for 4.

Scott Cassidy picked up the win for Pawtucket, allowing two runs on two hits in 3 2/3 innings.

Buffalo fell to 5-6, two games out of first place in the International League North. The teams will complete the series tonight (6:05 p.m., Radio 1230, 1330) with lefthander Brian Tallet (0-0, 2.70 ERA) scheduled to start for the Bisons against lefty Abe Alvarez (1-0, 4.50 ERA).

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