With two of the best pitchers in the International League dueling, Tuesday's matchup between the Buffalo Bisons and Toledo Mud Hens would come down to which team could hit the other's bullpen harder.
It was Toledo which took advantage of the reliever first, tagging Bo Shultz for three runs in the eighth en route to a 7-1 win at Coca-Cola Field.
With one out, Shultz walked Chad Huffman. A wild pitch allowed Huffman to take second. He then scored on a single from Tyler Collins for a 2-1 Toledo lead. An RBI double from Miguel Gonzalez and a single from Argenis Diaz extended the Mud Hens lead to 4-1.
The Mud Hens added three runs in the ninth off closer Bobby Korecky.
Dueling starters: On paper it was set to be a pitching duel between Toledo starter Thad Weber and Bisons starter Wade LeBlanc. Both starters pitched outstanding games each giving up just one unearned run. Weber, the former Buffalo Bison, gave up six hits with two strike outs in 7 1/3 innings to lower his ERA to 1.49 and move to 5-1 on the season.
LeBlanc struck out six batters. It was the seventh straight start in which LeBlanc has had six or more strike outs. His season high of eight came in an 8-1 win at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on April 20. In Tuesday's no-decision he gave up on unearned run on seven hits with two walks in 6 1/3 innings.
But the pitching matchup is rarely something on the forefront of the guys on the mound.
"Not really because the goal is to give up no runs no matter who’s pitching against you," LeBlanc said. "I don’t think it really comes into play who you’re facing. Sometimes maybe you understand if it’s – I mean I’m not taking anything away from Weber; he’s having an unbelievable year – but maybe if it’s like a Randy Johnson on the other side you understand that you have to give up no runs or you’re going to lose. But for the most part it’s make your pitches, get your outs and let your offense try to get you on the board.
LeBlanc on strikeouts: "They kind of just happen. There are some situations where you look for a strike out but for the most part you kind of look for early outs, get outs on three pitches or less, try to keep the ball off the sweet spot. But strike outs happen when you’re aggressive in the zone."
Final line on Schultz: In his second appearance with the Herd on his MLB rehab assignment, Schultz pitched 1/3 of an inning giving up three runs (two earned) on three hits with one walk and a wild pitch.
Scoring on an error: Toledo took a 1-0 lead in the first jumping on a Bison error. The Mud Hens had back-to-back singles and Chad Huffman grounded back to pitcher Wade LeBlanc. LeBlanc threw to second for the force out but shortstop Jio Mier's throw to first in an attempt to turn the double play sailed to Bisons dugout allowing a run to score.
Scoring on an error II: It was a bad first inning for shortstops. Toledo's Dixon Machado booted a ground ball that allowed the Bisons to score a run and tie the game, 1-1. The run was set up by solid base running from Alexi Casilla, who singled then stole and third. He was in position to get home on the two-out error.
Hit streak: Dalton Pompey extended his hitting streak to nine games with a single in the bottom of the first. He was perhaps a bit too aggressive on the base path and tried to stretch the hit into a double and was thrown out by the left fielder.
The almost-rally: The Bisons opened the seventh with back-to-back singles from Matt Dominguez and Domonic Brown. A ground out to first moved the runners up. Then with two outs, Tony Sanchez ripped a shot but a diving play by Machado robbed him of the base hit and an RBI.
Leaving them loaded: The Herd loaded the bases in the ninth with a hit, walk and hit by pitch. But a strikeout and a double play ended the game.
Always a Buffalo connection: On Tuesday, the Atlanta Braves fired manager Fredi Gonzalez after the Braves got off to a league-worst 9-28 start to the 2016 season. That reverberates into the International League as Gwinnett manager Brian Snitker was named Atlanta's interim manager. The organization promoted Rick Albert from the Gulf Coast League Braves to manage Gwinnett. Albert played baseball for the University at Buffalo in 1971-72. Gwinnett entered Tuesday's games in second place in the IL South with a 19-20 record, two games behind the Charlotte Knights. Buffalo doesn't play Gwinnett until they host the Braves July 21-24.
Roster moves: Infielder Andy Burns and reliever Dustin Antolin were sent back to the Bisons after both players made their major league debut with the Blue Jays. Antolin allowed three runs in a pair of relief innings while Burns went 0 for 4 in five games. The Blue Jays recalled switch-handed pitcher Pat Benditte, who is 2-0 with a 3.86 ERA in eight games for the Herd.
Counting the house: The official announced paid attendance was 4,599.
Up next: The Bisons close out the series with a 1:05 game against the Mud Hens at Coca-Cola Field. Roberto Hernandez (1-2, 3.20) is scheduled to start for the Herd against lefty Chad Bell (1-0, 0.00 ERA). The homestand continues when the Herd opens a four-game series against Pawtucket at 6:05 p.m. Thursday.