Jeff Harris' last outing in Dunn Tire Park ended in disaster and things started no better for him Monday night. But when he escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first inning, the Buffalo Bisons' offense put him in a comfort zone he never left.
Harris pitched six innings and shortstop Hector Luna belted a pair of home runs as the Herd dumped the Rochester Red Wings, 7-4, before 7,553 at Dunn Tire Park. The Herd won its fifth straight game, equaling its season-best streak, and maintained its three-game lead over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the International League North.
Harris (5-5) threw a season-high 109 pitches and tossed a complete game here June 22 against Norfolk, but gave up a two-out RBI single in the ninth inning to ex-Bison Eider Torres and suffered a 3-2 loss. The inning was extended by his own throwing error and Harris was so frustrated he bruised his hand by punching a dugout wall.
"The hand was a little swollen," Harris said. "It was just me being stupid, losing my temper a little bit. I could play catch the next day and didn't miss any catch time so that was key."
But the inactivity of just two innings (Thursday at Scranton) in a nine-day stretch appeared to bother Harris at first Monday. He retired the first two hitters, but then gave up a single and a pair of four-pitch walks to load the bases. Harris then fell behind Brian Buscher, 3 and 1, before recovering to get him to line out to left.
"It was big to get out of that inning," Harris said. "I was struggling with my command, trying to do a little too much and nibble at the corners."
Harris credited catcher Mike Rose for imploring him to trust his off-speed pitches when his fastball was ineffective.
"Shoot, for a while I was just trying to throw a strike with anything," Harris said. "I was missing with my fastball . . . I just had a bad feel for the ball for a little while."
Harris' feel got better when the Buffalo offense cranked up. Luna and Luis Rivas opened the game with back-to-back homers off Rochester starter Brian Duensing and Luna cranked a three-run shot to left off Duensing in the fourth. Luna, who entered the game with just three home runs all season and none since May 9, declined to speak to reporters.
"Our offense has been going pretty well," said manager Torey Lovullo, whose team has won 10 of its last 13. "We've been really consistent in this stretch."
Top Cleveland prospect Adam Miller had an uneven 1 2/3 innings in his third relief outing since coming off the disabled list. Miller topped at 99 mph while striking out the side around a single in the seventh but he gave up three runs on four hits in the eighth.
"We can see he's healthy for sure," Lovullo said. "I think the guys did a little 'Adam-watching' out there that inning defensively thinking he was going to strike everybody out."
The teams conclude their four-game series tonight (6:05 p.m., Radio 1230, 1330 AM) with the annual Independence Eve celebration with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. All tickets are $21 and fewer than 3,000 remain.
Bisons 7, Rochester 4
The pitch: Herd equals season-high with fifth straight win ... Luna posts first two-homer game of the season, drives in four runs ... Harris (5-5) works six innings.
Fast fact: The Bisons are 23-13 this season against North Division foes.
Next game: Tonight vs. Rochester at Dunn Tire Park, 6:05 p.m. (Independence Eve with BPO/All tickets $21)