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Bisons can't get anything going; Backman criticizes lackluster attitude

Say this for the Buffalo Bisons: They were trying to get into the spirit of the night's big event in Western New York.

Buster Bison walked a tightrope down the first-base line during his nightly race with a kid from the crowd, just like this team is doing in the International League race. And at risk of taking the joke overboard, it's also pretty easy to see how the Herd is becoming untethered to the playoff picture.

Manager Wally Backman can sense the June swoon too, so he closed the clubhouse and had a 20-minute, one-way discussion with his team Friday following its dreary 8-3 loss to the Pawtucket Red Sox.

A mostly silent crowd of 10,228 in Coca-Cola Field saw the Bisons lose for the fifth time in their last seven games and drop to 6-8 in June. They are a season-high six games out of first place and have fallen to fourth in the North Division.

"We've got to change our energy level. We've got to pick it up and we've got to play the game hard," Backman said calmly. "We have to play it right and we've got to communicate. When you're not getting a lot of hits, all those little things really show up and that's basically what's happening right now. We're just not executing as a team."

A couple of weeks ago, the Bisons were hitting .285 as a team and leading the IL in average. They're at .258 now — including just .220 in June, with only 42 runs in 14 games. They had just six hits Friday after managing only four in Thursday's 5-0 loss.

"You're not going to win every game but you have to go out there and play with an attitude," Backman said. "Basically our attitude the last week has [stunk]. Basically that's what I think. … It needs to be better. We talked about it. Hopefully we see a different energy."

The Bisons were toast from the second pitch of the night as Pawtucket shortstop and leadoff man Pedro Ciriaco took Dylan Owen (3-4) high into the screen in left and Buffalo never caught up. Ciriaco, who finished 4 for 5 and a triple shy of the cycle, scored three runs and drove in two.

The only time he didn't get a hit was in the third, when his infield pop-up dropped in for an error charged to first baseman Josh Satin. Owen was bumped near the mound by third baseman Matt Tuiasosopo and Satin didn't make a move at the ball when that mild collision happened, bringing plenty of hoots from the crowd.
When the next batter, Ryan Kalish, lofted a foul popup that Tuiasosopo corraled, the crowd unleashed a huge Bronx cheer.

In addition to Ciriaco's blast, Pawtucket got solo shots in the third by Tony Thomas and Lars Anderson in the ninth and a two-run blast to right-center in the fourth by Kalish. Thomas' shot sparked a three-run inning and Kalish's bomb capped a three-run frame and made the score 7-1.

The Bisons' runs came on Matt den Dekker's solo homer in the third, his first in Triple-A, and Valentino Pascucci's two-run shot in the ninth. That was his 13th of the season.

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Jenrry Mejia's first relief outing in the transition from starter lasted one inning covering 19 pitches. He gave up one single and got three groundouts. Backman said he will pitch again Sunday. ... Mets infielders Ronny Cedeno and Justin Turner both went 1 for 4 in their rehab games. .... The series continues tonight at 7:05 with Buffalo's Jeurys Familia (5-3) pitching against Pawtucket right-hander Billy Buckner (0-1), no relation to the former Red Sox first baseman.

email: mharrington@buffnews.com

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Red Sox 8
Bisons 3

The Pitch: Bisons fall season-high six games out of first place as PawSox belt four homers. ... PawSox SS Ciriaco goes 4 for 5 with HR, 3 runs. ... HRs by den Dekker and Pascucci account for Herd runs.

Fast fact: Cedeno was 1 for 4 in first rehab game with Herd.

Next game: Tonight vs. Pawtucket, 7:05 (25th anniversary coin pack giveaway/first 2,000 fans to Swan Street gate)