For the last five games, Matt Tuiasosopo has struggled a bit at the plate. He was pressing a bit too much to make something happen, coming up with just one hit in 11 at-bats.
But the atmosphere of the Buffalo Bisons' clubhouse and the fresh start with the New York Mets organization has given him the opportunity, and the support, to find his groove.
He was impressive in all aspects of the game Friday night, going 4 for 4 with two solo home runs and racking up eight defensive assists with one putout. He was a cornerstone for the Herd as they wrapped up their homestand with a 9-0 win over Syracuse in front of 8,678 at Coca-Cola Field.
Tuiasosopo was signed by the Mets as a minor league free agent. He was drafted by Seattle in the third round in 2004 and played in 71 games for the Mariners from 2008-10. He spent all of last year in Triple-A Tacoma before being released in the offseason.
But so far, he's loving the Mets' organization and his time with the Bisons.
"This is probably one of my favorite teams I've played on in my eight years," Tuiasosopo said. "We've got a great group of guys who come to the ballpark every day and it's great to be around them. That's how it's supposed to be. All the winning clubs I've been on in the minor leagues are tight."
A team that enjoys each other tends to foster a winning environment.
"On the last road trip there was three quarters of the team at Red Robin right next to the hotel," Tuiasosopo said. "In the eight years I've been in the minor leagues I've never ate dinner with my whole team in a restaurant. We were all just having fun and that's what it's all about. Then we get to the field and have fun and play free and enjoy the opportunity we have."
The opportunities were there Friday for the third baseman to put together a complete outing.
"He's got great footwork. As an infielder, that's the key and he's definitely got it," Bisons manager Wally Backman said. "He showed serious arm strength. He shows power. He runs average for a big guy. He's already been to the big leagues. If he's the guy that gets to play every day, he's the guy that may surprise some people and open some eyes in New York."
Meanwhile Jeremy Hefner was impressive in his sixth start, giving up two hits and one walk in seven innings. He only threw 78 pitches and could have gone longer, but D.J. Carrasco needed two innings in his major league rehab assignment. He gave up one hit in two innings.
Buffalo ended its homestand 6-1 and begins a 10-game road trip, its longest of the season, with a doubleheader today against Rochester in Frontier Field (5 p.m.) followed by an off day Sunday.
Righty Dylan Owen (2-1, 3.18 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Herd against righty P.J. Waters (4-1, 2.84) in the first game. Garrett Olson (0-2, 3.29) is scheduled for the Herd in the nightcap.
Bisons 9, Syracuse 0
The Pitch: Tuiasosopo belts two solo home runs, leads defensive charge with eight assists and one putout.. Hefner scatters two hits with one walk and three strikeouts in seven innings. Rottino earns callup to Mets.
Fast fact: The Bisons finished their homestand 6-1.
Next game: Today doubleheader at Rochester (5:05 p.m.)