Christian Lopes made his first Triple-A hit one to remember Sunday when he blasted a two-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the Buffalo Bisons a 4-3 victory over the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
The comeback win was the first game of a double-header at Coca-Cola Field, and the Bisons completed a sweep with a 9-6 triumph in the nightcap.
Lopes, a 24-year-old infielder, spent all last season at Double-A New Hampshire, hitting. 295 with 46 runs batted in and three homers.
Batting seventh in the order, Lopes jumped on a hanging slider from Ben Heller and sent it off the screen in left field. He said it was his first-ever walk-off HR.
“That’s my first one as a professional, and I don’t think I even had one as a Little Leaguer,” Lopes said. “I was excited. To get the first hit in Triple-A like that, I walked in the dugout and I couldn’t calm down before the second game. It took me a few innings. It was definitely a good feeling.”
“He can hit, man,” said Bisons manager Bobby Meachem. “The thing about him is he’s just battling all the time. . . . It’s not complicated what he does. He just makes sure he swings at good pitches he can handle. He’ll chase, but he won’t let those go that he should hit.”
Nightcap hero: The bottom of the order came through in the nightcap, as No. 9 hitter Jason Leblebijian hit a two-run homer over the 367-foot mark in right field in the fifth inning to put Buffalo ahead, 8-6. Leblebijian, 25, is a utility player who hit .293 in Double-A last year.
Game 1 pitching: Herd starter Mat Latos allowed two runs (both unearned) in four innings. Reliever Wil Browning pitched the last inning and got the win.
Game 2 pitching: Herd reliever Chris Smith pitched the last two scoreless innings and got the save. Middle reliever Jeff Beliveau got the win despite yielding three runs.
Hot Bison: Dwight Smith Jr., a 24-year-old who spent last year in New Hampshire, is 6 for 9 to start the season. He hit a two-run double in the opener. Smith hit .265 last year. “A line-drive hitter, he continues to get better,” Meachem said.
Smith also had the defensive gem of the nightcap. With Buffalo ahead, 8-6, in the sixth inning, Smith made a backhanded running catch over his head off the bat of Ruben Tejada.
Top RailRiders: Dustin Fowler, a 22-year-old rated the Yankees’ No. 9 prospect by Baseball America, hit two home runs in the nightcap. He hit a two-run shot by the flagpoles in left center off Dermody in the first inning. He hit a three-run shot to right off Jeff Beliveau to tie the game, 6-6, in the fifth. . . . Clint Frazier, the No. 2 Yankee prospect, hit two doubles in the nightcap.
Roster moves: The Bisons activated catcher Luke Malle, who spent 46 games last year with Tampa Bay, and reliever Mike Bolsinger, who played six games with the Herd last year. Reliever Dom Leone was supposed to come down from Toronto but he was called back to the Jays due to a bullpen injury. . . . Casey Lawrence, the 29-year-old who was scheduled to start the Herd’s opener, saw his first big-league action Saturday. He pitched 2-3 of an inning for the Jays and yielded a bases-loaded walk in the 3-2, 11-inning loss to Tampa.
Counting the house: Paid attendance was 8,111.
Return of Hague: Matt Hague, who won the International League MVP award with Buffalo in 2015, comes to town this week as Rochester’s first baseman. Hague, 31, hit .338 for the Bisons with 92 RBIs two years ago. He spent last season in Japan.
Up next: The Bisons play a four-game series with the Rochester Red Wings, with each game through Thursday starting at 1:05 p.m. The Bisons will start T.J. House, 26, who went 5-3 with a 3.98 ERA with Columbus last season. Jason Wheeler, a 6-foot-5, 255-pound lefthander, starts for Rochester, affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. He went 11-6, 3.53 for the Wings last season.