The Buffalo Bisons wanted to entertain the season's first sellout crowd and extend a torrid streak that has lasted two weeks. But the Herd proved to be no match for the International League's hottest pitcher Tuesday night.
Rochester right-hander Nick Blackburn went seven strong innings and extended his franchise-record streak of innings without allowing an earned run to 44 before the Herd finally touched him for a run in the third inning of the Red Wings' 10-3 victory over Buffalo.
The Red Wings scored six runs in their first two at-bats and enjoyed a laugher before 18,025 in Dunn Tire Park who had nothing to cheer about until the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra took the stage for its annual Independence Eve concert.
It was certainly a bad night to lay an egg. The Bisons had won 10 of their previous 13 games to improve to 47-35 and equal their season-high of 12 games over .500. But they were never in this one, as they were denied their first six-game winning streak.
"That's the ultimate in frustration," manager Torey Lovullo said about the small showing in front of the big house. "I just kept begging for us to do something to let this crowd erupt. You could feel that every time we had a runner moving or somebody did something with the bat that they were excited. So we're sorry we couldn't put a better effort out there for them."
Still, it's tough to indict the Herd the way Blackburn has been pitching. He improved to 6-1 and dropped his ERA to 1.54 in nine starts since being promoted from Double-A New Britain.
His streak began May 29 and included all five of his June starts, including a pair of complete-game shutouts. It ended on Ryan Mulhern's two-out RBI single in the third.
"It was fun while it lasted, but honestly I'm kind of glad that it's over with," said Blackburn, a 25-year-old Triple-A rookie. "People are talking about it all the time. I'd rather just be able to focus on pitching well."
He scattered five hits over seven innings, striking out five and walking three. He retired 10 of the final 12 men he faced.
Blackburn entered the season completely off the Minnesota Twins' prospect radar, and this is an organization that always has pitching in Rochester. Think Francisco Liriano in 2005 and the trio of Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey and Matt Garza -- all of whom have been called up to Minnesota this year
Blackburn entered this season just 30-36 in his career, and he was no bonus baby either, getting drafted in the 29th round in 2001 from Seminole (Okla.) Junior College.
"Hopefully I've opened a few eyes," he said. "I feel like I probably have but I'm not too concerned about the big leagues right now. You just have to hope to get there eventually."
Mechanical changes, including lengthening his stride and adding a cut fastball, have helped the 6-foot-4, 231-pounder push his velocity into the mid-90s.
"He throws a lot of strikes, he's around the plate and nothing is straight," Mulhern said. "What he throws, he's sinking or cutting it, and he's just missing barrels [of bats]."
"He was commanding the ball on both sides of the plate keeping everything down," Lovullo added. "He looks like the complete package."
Six of Rochester's runs were unearned, including all four that scored in the eighth on Ken Harvey's grand slam off Matt Miller. That inning was extended by a third-strike passed ball on catcher Mike Rose that allowed Garrett Jones to reach first.
Buffalo starter Eric DuBose (2-1) gave up a run in the first and was torched for five in the second. The key hit was a two-run single to right-center by No. 9 hitter Denard Span.
The pitch: Red Wings disappoint sellout crowd by snapping Herd's five-game winning streak. ... Rochester's Blackburn goes seven innings, but streak of innings without an earned run ends at 44 on Mulhern's RBI single in the third. ... Span's two-run single keys five-run second off DuBose.
Fast fact: The Bisons are just 1-4 at home in games played in front of crowds of more than 10,000.
Next game: Thursday vs. Durham at Dunn Tire Park, 7:05 p.m. (Play Catch Under the Lights/logo baseball giveaway)