This was even more fun than Saturday’s 15-2 blowout.
Brett Wallace hit his third home run of the game, a grand slam in the 12th inning, to give the Buffalo Bisons a 10-6 victory over the Pawtucket Red Sox Sunday at Coca-Cola Field. The win put the Herd (73-61) into the lead for the International League wild-card playoff berth, just a percentage point ahead of the PawSox (74-62) with nine games left.
Wallace sliced a 3-2 pitch down the line to left to win it against Pawtucket reliever Miguel Celestino. It was only the third walk-off grand slam in the Bisons’ modern era. That last was on June 14, 2010 when Fernando Martinez slammed the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
Wallace isn’t certain when he last hit three home runs in the game – he thinks it was back in Double-A ball around 2009 – but certainly he never did it at such an important moment. And only 10 players in the modern era of the Bisons have hit three home runs in the game. The last: Vinny Rottino on May 19, 2012.
Three times Wallace won what he called “the battle we face against these pitchers every day.”
His first against Pawtucket starter Anthony Ranaudo came off a first-pitch fastball, giving Buffalo a 1-0- lead in the fifth inning. That was a line drive to the grass berm in right field.
“I think” Ranaudo “was trying too get ahead early and got a little too much of the plate,” Wallace said.
Two batters later, a solo blast by George Kottaras made it 2-0, Buffalo, but that was erased when Bryce Brentz of the PawSox, who had a four-RBI game, hit a no-doubt-about-it two-run shot over the wall in left.
Homer No. 2 for Wallace tied the game at 6-6 in the eighth. That was an opposite field drive to left, too, against Cuban-born reliever Dalier Hinojosa.
The winning rally in the 12th was set up when Anthony Gose, another Bisons hero, led off with a ground single to right. Jonathan Diaz sacrificed him to second and a wild pitch by Celestino put Gose on third with one out. After Kevin Pillar popped out, lefty-swinging Dan Johnson was walked intentionally and Matt Hague drew a walk after working to a full count.
That brought Wallace to the plate.
Believing that Celestino would pitch him away, Wallace said, “I wanted to hit a line to the alley in left.” He did better than that, driving the ball down the line and over the fence near the 325-foot mark.
Almost as important as the winning blow was Gose’s three-run homer that erased a 5-2 Pawtucket lead in the seventh. The drive over the wall in straightaway center came against Hinojosa on an 0-2 pitch. Gose was the first batter the Pawtucket pitcher faced in relief of Ranaudo.
“You don’t really expect that power from him especially to dead center,” said Bisons manager Gary Allenson. Such heroics from an unexpected source is “nice to see,” Allenson said.
With their fifth win in a row and 15th in their last 20 games at home, the Bisons moved a percentage point in front of Pawtucket for the wild-card berth and closed to 3ø games behind first-place Syracuse in the North Division of the IL.
“Every game is important, every at-bat, every pitch,” Allenson said. “That’s when this game’s fun.”
Sunday the Bisons and those in the announced crowd of 13,142 had the most fun.