There's plenty of talk about chemistry in the Buffalo Bisons' clubhouse these days. Many of these guys spent a bunch of spring training with the New York Mets, so the Herd wasn't really a team when it hit Buffalo with the usual strange brew of prospects and thirtysomething free agents.
The mixture is quickly coming together. This team can score and it can pitch, too. The Bisons are on their first four-game winning streak of the season and have won nine of 12 games after Sunday's 8-2 clipping of the Rochester Red Wings in Coca-Cola Field.
After a 5-7 start, the Herd looks completely on the same page.
"You can't fake it, man," said veteran second baseman Bobby Scales, whose 3-for-5 day pushed his International League-leading average to .413. "I've been on some bad baseball teams and I've been on some good ones. The common thread of those seem to be you've got guys from all different walks of life -- Latin guys, black guys, different parts of the country -- coming together.
"Guys generally like each other here. It's nice. We talk to each other, ask about family. It's awesome. On the field, it comes through."
Buffalo (14-10) is one game out of first place in the International League North after picking up four games on slumping Pawtucket in four days. The Bisons haven't won 14 games in April since 2007 and the franchise mark of 15, set five times, can be matched in the series finale tonight at 6 (TWC 13, Radio 1520 AM).
The Bisons collected 14 hits, three apiece by leadoff man Scales and No. 2 hitter Vinny Rottino. No. 3 hitter Val Pascucci went 2 for 5 to push his hitting streak to 13 games while Rottino has an 11-gamer. Shortstop Omar Quintanilla belted the lone home run, a solo shot in the eighth.
Last year, the the Bisons were 12th in the 14-team IL in batting at .255, last in runs and 13th in home runs. They start this week second in batting (.281), tops in homers (30) and third in runs (118).
The Bisons scored two runs in the fourth, two in the fifth and three in the seventh against Rochester's Scott Diamond (4-1), who entered the game as the IL's only four-game winner. Scales and Rottino each collected two doubles, with Rottino giving Buffalo the lead for good by scoring on Matt Tuiasosopo's two-out RBI single to left in the fourth.
"With your first two hitters in the lineup, their job is to set the table for the 3-4 hitters and they do," said manager Wally Backman. "It works its way all the way down the lineup."
The Bisons sacrificed, executed some hit-and-runs and drove runners in when it counted. That's what Scales saw 10 years ago as a Double-A player in Mobile, Ala., when Backman was managing Birmingham.
"When I got a chance to sign over here, I got excited because I know Wally likes to do stuff," Scales said. "He likes to put on hit-and-runs, likes to let guys steal. He's aggressive. You play for a manager like that coupled with natural abilities in this clubhouse of guys who can hit, and it's fun."
The Bisons had their most fun at the expense of Pascucci, who rocketed a two-run single high off the center-field wall in the seventh. It was hit within a foot of the top of the fence but bounced directly back to center fielder Joe Benson after hitting the wall just to the right of the 404-foot sign.
"I was kind of shocked when I was running," Pascucci said. "I was like, 'I'm gonna have to shut it down and go back to first.' It went right back to him and the guy has a good arm."
"I put him in the Kangaroo Court box for that," said a smiling Backman. "I told him that's the longest 404-foot single I've ever seen."
Pascucci was caught on the television broadcast getting needled by outfielder Dustin Martin, who was coaching first base. Starter Dylan Owen (2-1), who allowed just one run in seven strong innings, couldn't resist either.
"I gave him a little trouble about it," Owen said. "A 403-foot single? I told him, "Let's go 405 so you can trot it a little bit.' "
Pascucci said Martin was a ringleader.
"I think everyone was laughing," Pascucci said. "I've already heard about it a few times since the game was over. But it was the right move."
Smart play. Fun play too. It's been that way for two weeks. Might foreshadow an interesting summer.
Bisons 8, Rochester 2
The Pitch: Herd raps out 14 hits to win fourth straight game. ... Scales (now batting .413) and Rottino collect three hits apiece. ... Owen (2-1) goes seven innings, allows just one run.
Fast fact: The Bisons have won nine straight at home over the Red Wings the last two seasons.
Next game: Tonight vs. Rochester, 6:05 in Coca-Cola Field (Markdown Monday)