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Wimberly's surprise steal of home a bright spot in loss

The Buffalo Bisons' only run in Sunday's 4-1 loss to Indianapolis came on a bizarre play in the bottom of the first as leadoff man Corey Wimberly surprised everyone in Coca-Cola Field by stealing home.

But the fleet Wimberly didn't steal it on a slow delivery by pitcher Rick VandenHurk. Instead, he bolted home when catcher Jose Morales lobbed a return throw to the mound. A quick toss back home by VandenHurk was too late.

Two pitches earlier, Wimberly and manager/third-base coach Wally Backman agreed he would go when they noticed the lobs and how deep third baseman Matt Hague was playing with Buffalo's Valentino Pascucci at the plate.

"I told him, 'If you think you can get it, take it. If you hear anything from me, come back,' " Backman said. "He stole it I thought pretty easy."

"I've stolen home quite a few times but not that way since Little League," said Wimberly, batting .367 with three steals in seven games after missing the season's first 37 due to a broken hand suffered in spring training.

It was the Bisons' first straight steal of home downtown since Damian Jackson pulled off the play in the 1997 home opener against Nashville.

Wimberly, 28, was a free-agent signee over the winter after playing for Indy last season. He was an NCAA batting champion in 2005 after hitting .462 at Alcorn State and has two 50-steal seasons in the minors, topped by 59 at Double-A Tulsa in the Rockies chain in 2008. Just like home runs are for power hitters, stolen bases are a rush for speedsters.

"It's even more of a rush [stealing home] when you're stealing and the pitcher is in the windup because you don't know if the batter is going to swing," Wimberly said. "This one was a little bit easier and safer."

Indianapolis hit town Saturday night on an incredible run of offensive futility. The Indians were shut out in all four games of their previous series at Lehigh Valley but gave up only nine runs in the four games.

There's more. In the game before that, Indy posted a 1-0 win over Norfolk. In the game before that, the Indians lost to the Tides, 2-0. In total, they had just one run -- and it was unearned -- in 53 innings.

When starting pitcher Justin Wilson collected an RBI single in the fourth inning here Saturday night, it was Indy's first earned run in 56 innings. Incredibly enough, the Tribe somehow entered Sunday still holding a half-game lead in the International League West.

Backman was ejected for the first time this season for arguing with third-base umpire Jon Byrne in the third inning. They had been keeping a running dialogue for a couple minutes during play after Omar Quintanilla was thrown out stealing second base on a call replays showed to be dubious.

"We were discussing it basically the whole time," said a smiling Backman, who punctuated his departure by spiking his helmet and going nose-to-nose with Byrne. "Finally he said something to me and I said something to him and we kind of went at it a little bit."

Saturday's game took 3 hours, 50 minutes to complete, making it the longest nine-inning affair in the Bisons' modern era. The previous record was 3:49 for a 12-9 win at Norfolk in 2010. The longest nine-inning game at home had been a 13-11 win over Nashville in 1996 that took 3:47.

Relievers Jeff Stevens and Edgar Ramirez were added to the Buffalo roster from Class A Brooklyn and Double-A Binghamton, respectively and combined to allow one run over the final four innings Sunday. Infielder Michael Fisher, who had a two-run single Saturday night, was returned to Binghamton.

The series continues tonight at 7 (Radio 1520 AM) as Buffalo lefty Garrett Olson (1-3) pitches against Indy's Daniel Cabrera. It wraps up with a day game Tuesday at 1:05. Chris Schwinden is scheduled to start that one, although he spent Sunday with the Mets in Toronto. He's likely to return today.

email: mharrington@buffnews.com

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Indianapolis 4, Bisons 1    

The Pitch: Herd held to season-low two hits as four-game winning streak snapped. Wimberly steals home for only Buffalo run. Morales drives home two runs for Indy.    

Fast fact: The Indy victory snapped a 56-56 tie in the all-time series since the teams joined the International League in 1998.    

Next game: Tonight vs. Indianapolis, 7:05 p.m. (Markdown Monday/$7 tickets & concession specials)