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KINKADE SEES TO IT BISONS SWEEP
SLUMP-BUSTING HIT FINISHES OFF RALLY

Mike Kinkade was 0 for 7 with no reward for five hard-hit balls over two games Thursday. So he wasn't quibbling when his weakest contact of the day turned out to be his best.

Kinkade's bleeder through the right side of the infield scored Brandon Phillips to cap a two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth and give the Bisons a 4-3 win over the Rochester Red Wings that completed a sweep of a Dunn Tire Park doubleheader.

Buffalo took the opener, 3-2, as Steve Watkins (2-0) threw six strong innings and Andy Abad belted a two-run homer to right in the fourth.

Kinkade entered his at-bat against Rochester's Willie Eyre just 10 for 50 on the season. With the count at 0-2, he punched an Eyre pitch the opposite way between first and second as Phillips scooted home.

"I'm really glad it turned out that way because the frustration was definitely settling in," said Kinkade, 31. "It was nice one finally found a hole."

"You can see the disgust on his face after some of those at-bats," said manager Marty Brown. "But he's been swinging the bat good, making good contact, and he knows it."

It was a bizarre game for Kinkade, a free-agent signee who served as his team's catcher for the first time since doing it in 2002 for Las Vegas. Kinkade catches in the bullpen in spring training and learned Wednesday night he would have a chance Thursday because Ryan Garko remains day-to-day with a hand injury.

"I enjoy it," Kinkade said. "Especially when you have guys like we do who throw strikes."

Kinkade entered this season as a career .335 hitter in the minor leagues and has major-league time with the Dodgers, Orioles and Mets.

But he's suffering the same woes at the plate most of the Bisons are. Buffalo continues to be last in the International League in batting and had just 12 hits in the two games.

"There are a lot of players that have produced in the past who can hit, and it's been frustrating for everybody that we've started out so slowly," Kinkade said.

"It's nice to be able to put a few runs up and get two wins."

Rochester took a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth when Phillips' relay throw from second base on a potential inning-ending, double-play grounder scooted past Abad at first for an error and allowed Luis Rodriguez to score. Darnell McDonald got the Bisons going with a first-pitch single in the bottom of the inning and was sacrificed to second by Joe Inglett.

"Inglett hasn't been in there much (just nine official at-bats), and he's put in a situation where the game is on the line and he's got to get it done," Brown said. "McDonald's leadoff base hit was big, and getting him to second base was even bigger."

Phillips then did a solid job working a walk on a full-count pitch, and McDonald took third as ball four was in the dirt.

John Rodriguez followed with a first-pitch blooper to left that drove in McDonald with the tying run and set the stage for Kinkade.

The rally made a winner of reliever Chad Zerbe (3-1). Zerbe, who took the loss on Michael Ryan's ninth-inning home run Tuesday, rebounded to throw 3 1/3 innings and allow just one hit.

"He did a great job," Brown said. "He was really aggressive."

Spot starter Kazuhito Tadano threw five shutout innings, extending his scoreless streak to 13 1/3 and dropping his ERA to 1.13.

Reliever Matt Miller, just down from Cleveland, pitched to two batters to start that seventh inning before tweaking a hamstring and being forced to leave. The 33-year-old Miller, who had not allowed a run in 3 1/3 for Cleveland, was sent down when C.C. Sabathia returned from the disabled list. . . . There were 5,626 tickets sold and about 1,500 in the house at the peak of the 5 1/2 -hour affair. . . . In the opener, closer Jake Robbins earned his third save by getting Rob Bowen to hit into a game-ending double play with runners on the corners. Second baseman Jake Thrower deftly fielded an in-between hop to start it. . . . Rochester manager Phil Roof left his team Wednesday to return home to Paducah, Ky., because his wife is seriously ill. Hitting coach Rich Miller has been named Red Wings interim manager.
e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com