Too many walks, too many errors and a blown call at first base.
That's the simple combination that led to the Buffalo Bisons' latest loss, a dispiriting 8-5 defeat to the Pawtucket Red Sox on Saturday before 7,244 in Coca-Cola Field.
Manager Wally Backman got ejected during Pawtucket's decisive five-run sixth by first-base umpire Gerard Ascani but the ump was only partly to blame for this one. Four Buffalo pitchers combined for eight walks and the team equaled its season-high by making four errors.
The Bisons (37-32) have dropped three straight and six of eight. They have also fallen seven games behind the Red Sox (44-25) in the International League North.
"These last three games have been disappointing," said Buffalo first baseman Josh Satin. "We're playing a team that's ahead of us. Winning these games would have been big in the standings and losing them kind of cripples us a little bit. And the way we lost them is just disheartening."
The Bisons had a 5-3 lead in the sixth and Backman's blowup came after Cody Ross, down on injury rehab from Boston, was ruled safe at first base on the back end of a double-play attempt. Brad Emaus' relay throw was wide and Ross tried to elude Satin's swipe tag. Ascani ruled the runner safe and Backman immediately threw his cap down at the top step of the dugout.
Backman came on to the field and was clearly pointing at plate umpire Chad Whitson, imploring Ascani to get help on the call. Norfolk manager Ron Johnson made a simliar request here Sunday and a different umpiring crew conferenced and reversed a similar call, leading to another Backman ejection.
This time, Ascani walked away from Backman and refused to get help. Backman followed him toward right field and was run, but not before going nose-to-nose with the umpire and getting his money's worth to entertain the crowd.
"I got four kids and I bet my kids' life the guy was out," Backman said. "All I did was ask for help, told him there was no way I was leaving here until he asked for help. He wouldn't ask for help. That's why you have three umpires: To be able to get together and get the play right. He got the play wrong."
The Bisons had a 5-3 lead at the time and a double play would have left a man on third with two out. Instead it was runners at the corners with one out. Pedro Ciriaco followed with an RBI single to make it 5-4.
The Bisons then botched another double play at second on Ryan Kalish's ground ball as Emaus' flip to the bag could not be handled by shortstop Ronny Cedeno. A wild pitch by Pedro Beato (3-1) allowed the tying run to score and Ryan Lavarnway put Pawtucket ahead with a two-run double to left, advancing to third when the throw from left field Fred Lewis got away. Lars Anderson followed with an RBI single.
Satin said he definitely tagged Ross on the runner's way past the bag.
"I'm 100 percent sure but that's part of the game," Satin said. "We just didn't bounce back from it, didn't make plays afterwards to prevent a big inning. It could have cost us a run or two but it didn't have to cost us five."
The Bisons scored four in the fourth, two on Corey Wimberly's single, for a 5-2 lead. Starter Jeurys Familia only went four-plus innings, however, as he walked six and threw just 46 of his 86 pitches for strikes.
"He's got to be more consistent in the strike zone," Backman said. "His stuff is tremendous."
"It just seems nothing is going right for us right now," Satin said. "The last two days we haven't hit and we pitched well but can't get any runs for them. Today we had a breakdown in the field."
Matt Tuiasosopo ended an 0-for-27 slump with a bad-hop single in the fourth. ... Pawtucket reliever Junichi Tazawa threw three hitless innings for the win. ... Ross went 1 for 3 in his first rehab game down from Boston. ... Former Chicago Cubs ace Mark Prior, who has battled years of shoulder problems, pitched a perfect ninth for his first profesional save. He's pitched 6 2/3 innings of shutout relief for the Pawsox with 15 strikeouts. ... The series and homestand wrap up today at 1 (Radio 1520 AM). Garrett Olson (2-3) pitches for Buffalo.