Kevin Pillar describes it as the closest team he’s ever played on.
Ryan Goins says it’s the most fun group he’s been around.
That team atmosphere has been evident in the way the Buffalo Bisons have surged into the wild-card race. And Saturday night it was evident in an impressive blowout win.
The Herd batted around twice, got stellar starting pitching and another round of solid defense to crush the Pawtucket Red Sox, 15-2, in front of 11,616 at Coca-Cola Field.
The win brings the Bisons to within one game of Pawtucket for the lone wild card playoff spot in the International League. The teams have three more games at Coca-Cola Field in the series.
Saturday the offense continued to roll. A night after scoring 11 runs on 13 hits, the Herd drove in 15 runs on 19 hits.
They batted around in the first and third innings, scoring five runs in each to jump out to a commanding 10-0 lead.
Kevin Pillar, in his first game back after missing four with a cut on his elbow, got the party started with a three-run home run in the first, driving in Dalton Pompey and Darin Mastroianni who led off with singles.
“It’s kinda how I drew it up pregame,” Pillar quipped. “Both guys get on base and then hitting a home run. No, the last couple days were kinda tough, sitting back watching some games. This was a big series for us. I took the extra day yesterday to be ready for today and it paid off.
“It seems like you’re coming up every inning and it kinda takes the pressure off your at-bat a little bit knowing that everyone is going to contribute. The only thing you worry about is rolling into tomorrow. Baseball guys are superstitious with maybe wasting too many runs today, but I think we’re on a good roll and everyone’s doing their part. I expect us to do the same tomorrow.”
Pillar finished the game driving in five runs while going 2 for 4.
It was three-hit nights for Pompey (double, two RBIs), Mastroianni (two runs scored), and Cole Gillespie (RBI, three runs scored) while Ryan Goins had four hits, including three doubles. He drove in two runs and scored two.
However, the play in the game that everyone was talking about was on defense, an assist by Goins in the sixth inning.
A hit from Ryan Roberts went off third baseman Matt Hague’s glove. Goins backed up him from the shortstop position and barehanded the tipped ball. He gunned it to Dan Johnson who stretched at first and the Herd got the out that ended the inning.
“It just kinda happened,” Goins said about the play. “Sometimes instincts take over and you make the play.”
Goins has routinely made plays up the middle, helping to turn three inning-ending double plays on Saturday. His chemistry with second baseman Jonathan Diaz has been something to watch this season.
“They obviously like playing together,” manager Gary Allenson said. “Our pitching, I believe we’re leading the league and they are the key part of it because they turn hits into double plays. … They take a lot of heat off the pitching.”
That defense is key for a starter like Kendall Graveman, who had his fifth straight quality start in Triple A. Gravemen pitches to contact and he finished with 14 ground outs in seven innings of work.