The Buffalo Bisons needed a trip home. Jeremy Sowers needed a win.
They both got what they wanted Friday night in Dunn Tire Park as the Herd snapped a six-game losing streak with a 6-2 win over the Syracuse Chiefs. A crowd of 15,496, the second-largest of the season, was on hand for the opener of a nine-game homestand.
Sowers (1-4) tossed a six-hitter with a season-high eight strikeouts to post his first win and first complete game of the season.
"It had been a while," Sowers said. "I can't just be complacent with one time. I have to be able to repeat a quality outing. This is obviously a step in the right direction and a way to restore my confidence."
Sowers entered the game with a 5.82 ERA in six starts for the Herd, showing no signs of snapping out of the 1-6 funk that got him demoted from Cleveland. But that changed as he struck out six over the first three innings and retired 11 straight at one stretch.
"When you're pitching aggressively, you're going to get more strikeouts," Sowers said. "Swings and misses on fastballs are a good indication you're challenging the hitter and I was."
"Today he was a different guy," said manager Torey Lovullo. "He was full of confidence attacking hitters. I saw a little bit more velocity. He was reaching back and the velocity was a little bit more consistent and put a little more pressure on the hitters."
The Bisons' pitching staff completely collapsed on the team's road trip, allowing opponents to score in double figures three times and posting a composite 9.29 ERA during the losing streak.
Sowers restored sanity to the proceedings with an outing that was vintage, oh, 2006.
From July 22 to the end of last season, Sowers' 2.33 ERA was second in the entire major leagues -- behind only the 2.25 of Roger Clemens. He was 16-5, 2.42 between Buffalo and Cleveland and became the first Indians rookie to throw consecutive complete-game shutouts since Dick Tidrow in 1972.
Sowers retired 11 straight Syracuse batters from the fifth through eighth innings until finding trouble in the ninth on Michael Vento's leadoff single, a liner to left by Russ Adams that Joe Inglett flubbed for an error and a disputed hit batsman earned by Sal Fasano on a pitch that appeared to hit his bat.
Lovullo argued that one to no avail but Sowers quickly defused the threat by getting Ryan Roberts to ground into a double play and Mitch Lydon for a game-ending groundout.
"That was the kind of game that can really catapult him," said Lovullo.
In the sixth, ex-Bison Lee Gronkiewicz retired the first two Buffalo hitters in relief for Syracuse before the Herd exploded for six straight hits to snap a 1-1 tie. Singles by Jason Cooper, Yamid Haad, Brad Snyder and Jonathan Van Every all plated runs.
The series continues tonight at 5 with a makeup doubleheader (Radio 1230, 1330 AM). Lefties Aaron Laffey (7-3) and John Koronka (0-1) will start for Buffalo, with Laffey making his second attempt to win his eighth straight decision and tie the franchise record for a starter set by Tim Drew (2002) and Jason Jacome (1998).
Longtime major-league closer Lee Smith, who is second on the all-time list with 478 saves, will make an appearance at the ballpark during the twinbill. He will throw a ceremonial first pitch and hold an autograph session during the nightcap.
>Bisons6, Syracuse 2
The Pitch: Herd snaps season-high six-game losing streak. ... Sowers (1-4) tosses six-hitter with eight strikeouts. ... Six straight hits highlight four-run sixth.
Fast fact: The Bisons are 24-14 within the North Division and 28-30 outside it.
Next game: Today vs. Syracuse (DH) at Dunn Tire Park, 5:05 p.m. (Lee Smith appearance)