Pawtucket used seven pitchers on Sunday, including one who hadn’t taken the hill since he was in high school, and the Buffalo Bisons barely touched any of them.
It was that kind of afternoon for the Bisons, who somehow manufactured five runs on just three hits and even had an opportunity to win in the bottom of the ninth. But an error in the 12th inning helped the Red Sox score two unearned runs to cap a 7-5 victory over the Herd at Coca-Cola Field.
Dan Johnson launched a three-run homer in the third and the Bisons (6-3) scored another in the fourth before the PawSox bullpen retired the next 13 consecutive batters.
“Don’t remind me about that,” Bisons manager Gary Allenson said. “I looked at the board in the 11th inning and we were tied at 5 with three hits. … We didn’t make very good adjustments at bat and we didn’t hit very smart but in 144 games that’s going to happen every now and then.”
The Herd couldn’t piece together any insurance runs on Saturday, either, going scoreless after the fourth inning but still managed to gain a 3-2 win over the PawSox.
“We’ve been battling lots of wind, sun and temperature, you’re kind of battling everything,” Johnson said. “It’s hard for us to get real comfortable out there battling the elements plus whatever else you’re battling with plus you’re battling the pitcher.”
Or, in this case, seven pitchers. After starter Allen Webster went five complete, he was followed by Dalier Hinojosa, Drake Britton, Brayan Villarreal, Chris Resop, Tommy Layne and finally Justin Henry, a second baseman who tossed a 1-2-3 12th to earn the save. The last time he pitched was 10 years ago for Vicksburg High in his native Mississippi.
Even so, the Herd forced extra innings without getting a hit thanks to Villarreal. With one down Jack Murphy drew a walk and advanced on a wild pitch before Villarreal walked Munenori Kawasaki and Anthony Gose. When Villarreal was finally lifted for Resop, someone cued up Tone Loc’s Wild Thing as Villarreal slowly walked back to the dugout.
Pinch runner Matt Tuiasosopo scored on a hard ground ball to first by Steve Tolleson that Ryan Lavarnway had to make a diving grab to keep in the infield and the game was tied at 5. But Lavarnway potentially robbed the Herd of more.
“I was kind of happy the guy was walking guys,” Allenson said. “Bases loaded with one out and Tolleson got a ball he could hit that way and Lavarnway made a nice play there. We had the right guys at the plate but it didn’t happen for us.”
With the score tied at five in the 12th, the PawSox’s Dan Butler walked against Bisons reliever Chad Jenkins. Garin Cecchini then hit a deep fly ball to the left-field corner that ricocheted off the glove of Brett Carroll, who was charged with an error. Christian Vazquez hit a sacrifice fly to left before Heiker Meneses tacked on insurance with an RBI double.
Bisons starter Sean Nolin struck out the side in the first inning with all three looking. He locked up leadoff man Brock Holt with a fastball, rung up Alex Hassan with a curve then reached back for another heater to fan Bryce Brentz.
Nolin got Lavarnway to ground out to short to start the second, then fooled Butler with a breaking ball for his fourth strikeout. Cecchini popped out in foul territory to third baseman Juan Francisco to end the inning.
With one down in the third, Nolin walked former Bison Mike McCoy, who came into the game hitting .118. McCoy advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch, then an infield single by Meneses placed runners on the corners. Holt hit a hard chopper to Tolleson at second, who back-handed a toss to Kawasaki at short for one out but the left-handed hitting Holt beat the throw to first and McCoy scored to give the PawSox a 1-0 lead. But Nolin got his fifth strikeout of the contest when he fanned Hassan to end the inning.
Nolin lasted five complete innings, allowing four runs, striking out seven with five walks. Allenson said he was strong enough to go longer.
“The way he was rolling along there – we have these guys on pitch counts right now, I really like my starters and I like these guys to go deep but it’s kind of early to do that right now,” he said. “If it stayed on a roll with the pitch count he was going to pitch eight innings.”