With Buffalo Bisons ace Adam Miller on the mound, fireworks were expected -- but not necessarily the kind that exploded during the Herd's 8-2 loss to the Durham Bulls on Sunday afternoon.
Miller and Bisons manager Torey Lovullo were ejected in the third inning after the hurler gave up five runs and hit the next batter, third baseman Joel Guzman.
But once Miller and Lovullo left, the Bisons failed to show any spark and dropped their second straight game to the Bulls in front of roughly 5,000 fans (9,932 tickets sold) at Dunn Tire Park. Bisons designated hitter Trent Durrington went 4 for 5 and scored the Herd's runs.
Durham righty Tony Peguero (1-3) went five innings giving up six hits and just one run.
Despite heading into the all-star break on a two-game skid, the Bisons (49-38) can take comfort in their standing in the International League. Leading the North Division by 2 1/2 games over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (47-41), the Herd sits tied for second overall in the IL with Richmond, behind only Toledo (52-39), the reigning back-to-back Governor's Cup champion.
The Herd has been in first since May 5, quite an accomplishment given the amount of changes that have been made to the opening day roster. The moves include injuries to Miller, Brian Slocum and Shin-Soo Choo as well as the call-ups of Rafael Perez, Jason Stanford, Ben Francisco and Franklin Gutierrez.
"We're in first place so I'm very pleased," Lovullo said. "Crunch time's coming. We have 50 some odd games left and everybody's going to be chasing us down, so we've got to make sure we get things right in the second half."
But the Bisons aren't the only ones who've gotten something right during this first half. The parent Cleveland Indians are also rolling into the break just one game behind the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central. That likely means a shakeup will be coming for the Herd in the second half.
"It always happens. It's inevitable, unfortunately," Lovullo said. "We don't anticipate who or when or what the scenario is, but we know that injuries and call-ups are imminent and it's time for guys to step up.
"We have two or three guys that you might not see in the month of August and that's the crunch time part of the season so we'll make do with whatever Cleveland wants. That's what we're here to do, supply them with big league players."
After his stellar performance on Sunday, Durrington seemed optimistic about the Bisons' run at a championship this season despite the shuffling in the lineup.
"We're still going to play our game and the nucleus of the team is still here, so it's not like we're running a new team out there," he said. "I'm definitely looking forward to the homestretch and hopefully making the playoffs."