If Wally Backman's one to follow "the book," then maybe the Buffalo Bisons don't get off easy Monday. If Backman adheres to baseball's ancient dictums then maybe his Bisons don't win at all.
Conventional logic would have ordered Matt Tuiasosopo to take a three-ball, no-strike pitch in the fourth inning of a 7-1 Memorial Day victory over the Columbus Clippers. If Tuiasosopo coaxes a walk then the Bisons have two on with only one out with their No. 5 hitter at the plate. Columbus starter Zach McAllister theoretically has to throw more pitches. The pressure on the defense mounts.
But it's obvious where Backman stands on the matter. You want to pressure the opposition? Push runs across the plate. You want to make a pitcher work harder? Don't give him a free pass on 3-and-0 with your clean-up hitter at the plate.
Tuiasosopo is in tune with his manager's philosophy. He was so certain he had the green light that he didn't even bother to glance into the third base coaching box for a sign of confirmation. Instead, he jumped on McAllister's next pitch, drilled an RBI double off the wall in center and eventually scored in a two-run third inning that opened a 3-0 lead all the support needed by spot starter Dylan Owen (3-2) and his relievers.
"With certain guys I like to give them the option," Backman said. "If they want to hit 3-0, it's there for them. I didn't get to do it when I played so I like to let some guys do it when they play."
"I know how Wally likes to play the game and I actually didn't even look at him," Tuiasosopo said. "If you're going to swing at it, make sure you put your 'A' swing on it."
The Bisons were informed of a pair of call-ups after the game. Shortstop Omar Quintanilla is off to New York to replace utility infielder Justin Turner, who is going on the DL after suffering a leg injury in Sunday's game against the Phillies. Also Met-bound is starter Chris Schwinden, who was sent to the Herd from New York May 21 and dropped a 1-0 decision to Scrantyon/Wilkes-Barre Sunday.
Tuiasosopo's double is just one example of how the Bisons played the aggressor in bouncing back from Sunday's shutout loss to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The Herd manufactured a run off the get-go when lead-off hitter Corey Wimberly walked, stole second and advanced a pair of bases on a pair of ground outs. The fourth-inning uprising commenced on an infield single by No. 2 hitter Fred Lewis, who then swiped second early in the Tuiasosopo at-bat. With Wimberly and Lewis atop the order, the Bisons have speed to further compliment an offense that already leads the International League in team batting average.
"Speed is huge," Backman said. "At the start of the season we had Bobby Scales who was hitting .400 but he's not a speed-demon type of guy. Then we get the addition of Lewis and Wimberly gets healthy, with those two guys at the top of the order they can create some havoc on the bases. It enables the 3-4-5 guys to hit with guys in scoring position quite often."
"Anytime Corey gets on you don't know how many bags he's going to swipe," Owen said. "With our team it's just a matter of time before we score. It was weird getting blanked yesterday but we ran into some good pitching. Anytime we get those fast guys on base it helps out the team a lot."
Owen had perhaps his best outing of the season in what is his last spot start for the foreseeable future. The Bisons find themselves with a rotation filled beyond capacity with Jenrry Mejia and Chris Young added to the roster. That means Owen returns to the bullpen, a middle-reliever on call as a starter.
"He's very valuable," Backman said. "We've been able to use him enough to where we can keep him stretch out a little bit. He can throw 75, 80 pitches if need be. And now with everybody that's coming here now, he'll go back into the pen and fill that role again."
Columbus (Cleveland) looked every bit the part of an error-prone team that came in yielding a league-high 36 unearned runs. Tuiasosopo scored on a poor throw to first by shortstop Jason Donald. Jordany Valdespin rifled a three-run homer to straightaway center in the sixth after a throwing error by third baseman Andy LaRoche set the inning in motion.
All told, four of Buffalo's seven runs were unearned.