T.J. House got back to pitching the way he did at the beginning of the season. The 27-year-old lefty won his first three starts with the Buffalo Bisons, but struggled in his last four outings to consistently find the strike zone.
Saturday in front of a packed Coca-Cola Field, House got his groove back, throwing six shutout innings as the Bisons defeated the Charlotte Knights, 4-0.
"I've just been battling myself a little bit," House said. "I've been working on command of the ball in the zone. I haven't been doing a good job of that lately. So today everything finally clicked again, which was a big sigh of relief because you don't want things to continue to compile.
"We only have one time between starts when we can go out and work on things and that's the bullpen (session)," House said. "Even in my bullpen I've been struggling. Finally my last bullpen was very, very good and I was able to take it in the game today."
House scattered five hits, issued two walks and struck out five. He picked up the win to improve to 5-4.
"It was just getting back to myself," House said. "I think my arm slot was dropping a little bit and I was leading with my elbow and getting under the baseball which allowed my baseball to be up in the zone. Today I was just able to stay down in the zone, get a lot of ground balls, which is what I need to do."
An unusual first: The Bisons took a 2-0 lead with a pair of unearned runs. Ian Parmley led off with a single then moved to second when Jake Elmore's sacrifice bunt was misplayed by Charlotte first baseman Tyler Ladendorf. Another error on Ladendorf on a routine ground ball allowed Parmley to score and Elmore to take third. A sacrifice to left from Rowdy Tellez scored Elmore.
"It just reinforces how important it is not to assume stuff," manager Bobby Meacham said of his team's ability to create on the basepath by running out balls. "If you just run hard and make the other team make the plays, usually things are going to come out in your favor."
Welcome back Dwight: After taking two days off from a full-body crash into the rightfield wall on Wednesday, Dwight Smith Jr. was back on the field for the Bisons and drove in a run with a single in the third. That gives him 10 hits in his 11 games.
Fielder's choice: Elmore had a fielder's choice RBI in the fifth that put the Herd up 4-0.
Records: The Bisons are now 5-5 on Star Wars Night at Coca-Cola Field. The Herd is 21-9 at home and improved to 30-23 overall. Charlotte fell to 26-28.
MLB rehab: The Charlotte Knights started James Shields, who is on the Chicago White Sox 10-day disabled list with a right lat strain. The 35-year-old began his MLB rehab assignment Saturday, throwing 54 pitches (35 for strikes) in four innings. He allowed three hits, three runs (one earned) with no walks and three strikeouts. Shields went 1-0 with a 1.62 ERA in three starts with the White Sox this season.
Rehab on Star Wars Night Tradition: Shields is the fourth player on major league rehab to play in Buffalo on Star Wars Night. Jamie Moyer was a visitor with Norfolk in 2012 while Jose Reyes (2013) and Jose Bautista (2016) were with the Bisons on a rehab assignment and wore Star Wars-themed jerseys.
Pompey sighting: Dalton Pompey strolled into the Buffalo Bisons clubhouse Saturday afternoon. The move hasn't been made official by the Toronto Blue Jays, but he's in Buffalo ready to continue his rehab assignment in Triple-A.
Pompey suffered a concussion while playing for Team Canada at the World Baseball Classic in March. He missed spring training and the beginning of the season, getting his first game action last week by playing four games with Single-A Dunedin.
He is expected to play nine innings in the outfield for the Bisons on Sunday.
Attendance: For the fifth straight year, Star War Night was a sellout. There were 16,907 in the stands Saturday night.
Up next: The series and homestand concludes at 1:05 p.m. Sunday with righty Cesar Valdez scheduled to start for the Bisons against righty Chris Volstad.