The Rochester Red Wings regained a measure of respect on behalf of the International League Sunday afternoon, but the Buffalo Bisons may be the better for the result.
The Red Wings stopped the Herd's romp through IL competition in forceful fashion, snapping Buffalo's six-game winning streak, 11-3, before 7,286 fans at Silver Stadium.
It was only a matter of time before the Bisons stepped on the hidden mine that a stretch of exceptional play had planted in their path.
Buffalo's starters have been so dominant of late that summoning the bullpen -- particularly the rusty middle relievers -- had become a risky proposition.
When Miguel Garcia replaced starter Dorn Taylor in the sixth inning with the Bisons trailing, 5-1, it didn't take an overly active imagination to envision that, since Garcia was making his first appearance in a week, the Red Wings lead could balloon to . . . 11-1. And, with the help of a Jay Bell error on a potential inning-ending grounder, Rochester's lead did exactly that.
The big blow was a grand slam by Chris Hoiles that extended the Wings' advantage to 10-1 and assured the Bisons' heretofore perfect record against IL teams (9-0) would be dealt its first blemish.
"It was bound to happen," admitted manager Terry Collins. "Garcia pitched OK, but I think after that error he lost his concentration. You're going to lose games like that. I just don't want it to get us down."
Indeed, the magnitude of this defeat could prove beneficial to the Bisons.
"If there's a bright side, it's that we got the bullpen some work," Collins said. "There are going to be some tight situations where we're going to need them and if they haven't been pitching . . ."
After allowing only three runs over the last 53 innings, Bison starters had begun wondering which of them would hit the wall. Taylor had a pregame premonition he would be the one to falter, and the gut feeling proved accurate.
The Red Wings pounded out five of their six third-inning hits in succession while opening a 4-1 lead and, for the first time in 52 innings, the Bisons were behind on the scoreboard.
Taylor's uncharacteristic third inning came after an equally atypical first during which he fanned the side on 11 pitches. In retrospect, he would rather have induced three ground-ball outs.
"As a result of the first inning, I came out and tried to throw so darn hard instead of just relaxing," Taylor
said. "I was too strong, everything was too hard. My change-up was up around 80, 82 (mph) and that's definitely too hard for a change-up. That's the pitch I need to keep them off balance, but they were right on it."
The margin of defeat not only allowed Collins to find work for Garcia, Dave Rucker and Roger Samuels, but also paved the way for outfielder Albert Hall to make his Bison debut. Idle since receiving his release from Atlanta in spring training, Hall entered in the seventh and fouled off five pitches in his first at-bat before popping out. He then sliced an RBI single in the ninth.
"It was a good position for us to get him in there and get a couple of ABs," Collins said.
A contact hitter with speed, Hall is expected to challenge Reggie Williams for the starting job in right field.
So while the Bisons' first defeat in a week was a humbling experience, the benefits were far greater than if Taylor had gone the distance in a one-run defeat.
"I think it might have been good for us to get beat like this here after sweeping the series in Syracuse," Taylor said. "This will bring us back down. We were due for a letdown, although I'm sorry it was me. But I'm going to put this game behind me, and hopefully everybody will do the same."
Morris Madden (4-0) will oppose Pete Harnisch (1-4) when the series resumes at 2:05 this afternoon (WGR). . . . Rochester shortstop Juan Bell, the highly touted prospect acquired from Los Angeles in the trade involving Eddie Murray, has been placed on the disabled list because of tendinitis.