It was two wins for the price of one night’s work and thus a big step forward for the Buffalo Bisons’ playoff hopes.
The Herd inched to the top of the International League wild-card race late Thursday night by sweeping a doubleheader from the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, 5-2 and 2-1 – and then getting help as the clock rolled past 11 p.m. out of town.
Buffalo (61-57) now leads Norfolk (62-58) by percentage points after the Tides’ 10-inning loss to Gwinnett, and is a half-game ahead of Pawtucket (61-58) after the Red Sox lost a pair at Syracuse.
A Coca-Cola Field crowd of 7,443 saw the Bisons take the opener as right-hander Thad Weber went the route on a four-hitter for his first complete game of the season and Moises Sierra belted a pair of two-run home runs. Sierra went 3 for 3, scored three runs and drove in four while going deep for the first time since June 11.
Third baseman Andy LaRoche’s two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the fourth provided all the offense in the nightcap. Bobby Korecky threw 4∏ solid innings in a spot start and combined with John Stilson and Mickey Storey on a six-hitter.
Weber (6-4) has a 2.63 earned-run average that would be fourth in the IL if he had enough innings to qualify. He’s become the workhorse of the rotation, working into the seventh inning eight times in his last 11 starts.
“I’m not going to say I’m going to do that every single time but I’ve always prided myself on throwing the innings and trying to be as consistent as I can be,” said Weber, a May waiver acquisition from San Diego. “Every time I can go out and give us a solid outing and put us in a position to win the game, I’ll take it.”
“That’s the kind of stuff he brings to the table about every start,” said manager Marty Brown, who pushed his all-time victory total in Buffalo to 299. “Tonight he really didn’t have command of his curveball, but he just has a knack for pitching and for what he has that day.”
Sierra gave Weber all the offense he would need with a pair of first-pitch homers off Scranton starter Chris Bootcheck (9-6) in the second and sixth innings.
Sierra, a .389 hitter in April, has struggled with his mechanics as well as a lingering hamstring issue. He entered the night batting just .221 at home with one longball here all season, but has done lots of extra pregame work with batting coach Jon Nunnally that paid dividends.
Sierra looked good in right field too. In the fourth inning of the nightcap, he face-planted against the wall to make a spectacular grab of Adonis Garcia’s liner.
“Jeez Louise. Pretty good couple games for him,” Weber said.
“He got off to such a hot start here,” Brown said. “It was a situation where he had some success the year before in September, then it got off to a hot start and wasn’t getting called up and that was frustrating. ... He needs to finish strong.”
Prior to the twinbill, the parent Toronto Blue Jays transferred the injury rehab assignment of right-handed pitcher Drew Hutchison to Buffalo and announced he will start here against the RailRiders tonight at 7 (Radio 1520 AM).
Hutchison has not thrown in the big leagues since being pulled from a start on June 15, 2012 against Philadelphia with elbow soreness and then undergoing Tommy John surgery last August. He’s made five rehab appearances this year between Class A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire, going 0-1, 2.76. He was 5-3, 4.60 last year in Toronto.