Five things we learned about the Buffalo Bisons this homestand - The Buffalo News
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Five things we learned about the Buffalo Bisons this homestand

When all was said and done with a week's worth of record rainfall, the Buffalo Bisons played five of the six scheduled games at Coca-Cola Field thanks to a pair of doubleheaders.

What do you need to know about the Herd? Here's the rundown of where the Bisons stand:

1. The Bisons are off to one of the best starts in the modern era. Through the first 25 games, the Herd went 16-9, the third best start in the modern era (1985) equaling the team's start in 1990. Only two other records through the first 25 games were better: 18-7 (2000) and 17-8 (1985, 1986, 2000, 2001, 2007, 2013).

The Herd kept its lead in the International League North Division. At 16-11 they have a one-game lead over Rochester, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Lehigh Valley.

2. The pitching continues to be good. And part of that is because of the problems in Toronto. The Bisons lead the International League with a 2.82 earned run average. And that's not easy with the doubleheaders piling up. Still the Herd pitching staff threw 14 2/3 scoreless innings over three seven-inning games this homestand, including a complete-game shutout by T.J. House in an 8-0 win over Lehigh Valley on Saturday.

Part of the motivation has been the struggles of the Toronto Blue Jays. The parent club has suffered injuries to its pitching staff while struggling to find wins. That means there are openings for pitchers from Triple-A. And the Bisons staff is hungry for MLB opportunities.

"To be honest, they're struggling in the big leagues and I think all of us are just trying to get back up," said Bisons starter Brett Oberholtzer. "Pitch good and get back up. That helps. And I think it starts with the Day 1 starter pitching good, pass it down next guy tries to go out there and match him, next guy goes out and match him. And that's how a starting rotation should be."

3. When the Bisons offense is in high gear, the team wins. The Bisons are now 13-2 when scoring four or more runs in a game, but just 3-9 when scoring three or fewer runs.

The last game with an offensive breakout for the Herd was Saturday in an 8-0 win over the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.  Jason Leblebijian drove in five runs in that game, the first five-RBI day for a Bison hitter since last season when Matt Dominguez drove in five June 14 against Durham.

Mike Ohlman has found a groove at Coca-Cola Field. He has seven home runs on the season, six of them in the downtown Buffalo park.  In 15 games at Coca-Cola Field he has two doubles and driven in 12 runs.

4. The Herd faced its first true resiliency test. This was not an easy week. The weather made baseball impossible to play, dealing the Bisons three washouts in the first four days of the homestand. That put them in a doubleheader nightmare. Actually rain throughout the IL has caused plenty of twinbills. Of the last eight days they've played, four of those have been doubleheaders for the Bisons.

In that span the Bisons split three doubleheaders: two in Norfolk and one with Rochester on Wednesday in Buffalo. The Herd swept a doubleheader against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on April 9 in Coca-Cola Field and were swept on Sunday by the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

"You know it's tough when you've got to play two," Bisons outfielder Darrell Ceciliani said. "But you've got to make the best of it. They've got to play two as well. It's an equal playing for everybody so you've got to go about your business just like any other day and do what you can."

But doubleheaders and rain delays aren't like any other day. And getting out of the routine can be challenging.

"Baseball is a game where the more you play the more consistent you're going to be on the field," Ceciliani said. "It's getting those reps and staying fine-tuned with what you need to. But we're at Triple-A level and we've got to be able to roll with the punches.'

5. It was a sour end to the homestand. Or maybe not. Sunday became only the second time this season the Herd has suffered back-to-back losses and it was the first time in five doubleheaders they've been swept.

By win-loss standards, Sunday was a downer with a 1-0 loss in the opener followed by a 5-4 loss to Lehigh Valley. But for Bisons' manager Bobby Meacham, there was confidence to be gained in the way the team handled the weather adversity and battled back against an IronPigs team stacked with top prospects from the Philadelphia Phillies.

"When we do lose games like that, I feel confident," Meacham said. "We stayed in it. We were prepared to play. Guys were ready to go in tough circumstances. And this is a really good team we faced with some good pitching. We got one out of it but I'm kind of thinking the other way. I'm proud of these guys for the stretch we've gone through and the way that we've handled it."

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