At this point, it's probably not a bad idea for the Buffalo Bisons to hit the road. Maybe a new face on the mound will help this club snap out of its funk.
The Bisons completed a 2-6 homestand with a 6-1 loss Sunday to the Pawtucket Red Sox, who wrapped up a four-game sweep at Coca-Cola Field. A crowd of 8,989 saw the mostly lifeless defeat that sent the Herd spiraling eight games out of first in the International League North.
Buffalo opens an eight-game road trip tonight at 7:15 in Norfolk (Radio 1520 AM) and right-hander Collin McHugh has been promoted from Double-A Binghamton to make his debut in the Buffalo rotation.
McHugh, 24, is just 5-5 for the B-Mets but has a sparkling 2.41 earned-run average with 65 strikeouts and just 17 walks in 74 2/3 innings. The Mets' 18th-round draft pick in 2008, the 6-foot-2 McHugh has been one of the big surprises in the organization this season.
"His confidence has been better," said Herd center fielder Matt den Dekker, who spent most of the year with McHugh in Double-A and has been with him at two levels of Class A ball as well. "He goes out there and has a look in his eyes. "
Buffalo's pitching has not been solid of late. On Sunday, Garrett Olson became the third straight Buffalo starter to not get past the fourth inning and, in fact, he went only 2 1/3 while throwing an outrageous 73 pitches. The Bisons were in a 4-0 hole after three innings and that was that.
Three Red Sox combined on a six-hitter with 11 strikeouts with down-from-Boston Daniel Bard tossing two shutout innings of relief.
Manager Wally Backman is desperate for some innings from a starter and hopes McHugh can give him that. He had McHugh in Binghamton last year and compares him to current Mets starter and former Bisons star Dillon Gee for his ability to change speeds and throw strikes.
"He was legitimately our best starter, most consistent starter in the second half of the season last year," Backman said. "And that was with a couple other big boys there too [like current Bisons Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia]. He knows how to pitch. He's not a power guy but he can sink it, he can cut it, make the ball do things."
The Bisons (37-33) will hit the halfway mark of the season Tuesday, and there's hope the arrival of McHugh will portend the promotion of Zack Wheeler from Binghamton in the next few weeks.
Wheeler, acquired from San Francisco in the Carlos Beltran deal last year, has become one of the top prospects in all of baseball by going 6-2, 1.92 in 11 starts for Binghamton with 70 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings.
McHugh takes over the slot in the rotation left open when Jenrry Mejia was moved to the bullpen so the Mets could get him ready for a promotion. Mejia doesn't look nearly ready yet as he retired only one of five hitters he faced Sunday and incurred a walk, wild pitch and hit batsman. Only 10 of his 22 pitches were for strikes.
"Some of the strikes he threw were swing and miss where guys swung at pitches out of the zone," Backman said. "Command was definitely an issue."
The Bisons have issues both on the mound and at the plate. They're 6-10 in June with a 4.99 team ERA and a sickly .215 team batting average. Third baseman Matt Tuiasosopo went 2 for 30 with no RBIs on the homestand and slugger Val Pascuci was 2 for 17 with two RBIs.
"Hopefully we can get some stuff rolling on this road trip, turn it around and start playing well," said den Dekker, who was nailed at the plate to end the first trying to circle the bases after his single to right got away from outfielder Cody Ross.
"These guys are going to hit at the level they were hitting at most of that first half," Backman said. "Unfortunately for us, we've had a few of them go through struggles at the same time."
Red Sox 6, Bisons 1
The Pitch: Pawtucket takes early 4-0 lead, cruises to four-game sweep. ... Rivera homers, drives in three runs. ... Reyes double produces Buffalo's only run.
Fast Fact: The PawSox outscored the Herd, 27-9, in the four games.
Next game: Tonight at Norfolk, 7:15