Chris Schwinden was as mystified as everyone else. He pitched well against the first four batters he saw and then the wheels came off. Frankly, they came off for the entire pitching staff. The Buffalo Bisons gave up 10 walks and lacked any offensive punch, dropping a 7-2 decision to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees at Coca-Cola Field on Thursday afternoon.
Schwinden, who was the Bisons' Most Valuable Pitcher last year, struck out three of the first four batters he faced. Then he struggled in the second, issuing back-to-back walks, both of which scored. He continued to struggle through his four innings of work while being tagged for the loss.
"After the first, I don't know what happened," Schwinden said. "I'm going to start trying to figure that out, but it was unacceptable. That is not going to happen again. I can't tell you a reason why that happened. It's back to the drawing board and try to figure out what happened out there."
But it wasn't just Schwinden. He combined with Scranton starter Manny Banuelos for 11 walks. There were 18 total free passes issued in the game that resulted in high pitch counts. Scranton threw 205 pitches, Buffalo 196.
"I don't think the strike zone was too tight," Buffalo manager Wally Backman said. "I just thought the pitchers were all over the place. Same with their starter. When [pitches] are not around the plate, you're not going to get those borderline calls.
"There were 18 walks in the game today. That don't happen in Little League very often. That's a tough game to swallow when the game's played the way it was played [Thursday]. We have better expectations for our players and for our pitchers. We had plenty of opportunities to score runs. We could have blown the game open early in the game. We've got to be able to hit with runners in scoring position."
Indeed, Buffalo took a 2-0 lead in the first inning but could have put more runs on the board. With the bases loaded and one out, Vinny Rottino flew out to center field. That sacrifice scored a run. Zach Lutz singled in another run and Matt Tuiasosopo drew a walk to again load the bases. But Michael Fisher grounded out to third.
Buffalo again loaded the bases in the second with two outs but failed to generate any offense.
The Yankees had taken a 3-2 lead in the top of the second. After Schwinden struck out Jack Cust to start the inning he gave up a hit to Dewayne Wise. Then came back-to-back walks. Then an RBI single. Then a two-run double.
"They weren't crossing the plate," catcher Lucas May said of the pitching Thursday. "Sometimes you have days like that. When you're 2-0 on a hitter you don't want to give them a cookie because he's probably hacking. And sometimes it can just snowball."
Fans who attended Opening Day on Wednesday can redeem their used tickets for a free admission to any game remaining in the Bisons' current homestand. Fans should exchange their tickets at the Bisons' ticket office. The homestand runs through Thursday. The announced paid attendance on Thursday was 4,360. The series with the Yankees closes out today (1:05 p.m., Radio 1520) with righty Jeremy Hefner (1-0, 2.57 ERA) scheduled to start against righty D.J. Mitchell (1-0, 0.00 ERA). The Herd's homestand continues over the weekend when Pawtucket comes to town.