The Buffalo Bisons won't be gaining on the first-place Nashville Sounds during the teams' two-game series at Pilot Field. That much was assured by Nashville's 7-2 cruise past the Herd in Thursday night's series opener.
The Bisons have eight games remaining against Nashville at Greer Stadium, including four next week. It's a good bet they'll need to do some damage in those for their next chance at home against the Sounds to have any meaning.
After tonight, Nashville won't be at Pilot Field until the season's final series -- Sept. 3-6.
Thursday's loss before a crowd of 16,580 dropped the third-place Herd six games behind Nashville in the American Association East. Nevertheless, manager Doc Edwards wasn't pushing any panic buttons.
"I will not act like most people want you to act, that it's do or die," Edwards said. "There have been too many pennants won in August and September when somebody is down 13 games, let alone five or six.
"If you're weak at heart and believe you're out of it at five or six, you shouldn't be in the game anyway."
The Bisons weren't in this game much at all, as in many of their 11 meetings with Nashville this season. Nashville leads the season series, 9-2, and has doubled the Herd in runs in those games, 72-36.
Nashville struck for three quick runs in the first off Buffalo starter Paul Miller, and they proved to be more than enough as pitcher Mike Mongiello tossed a six-hitter.
Some questionable Buffalo defense and an equally perplexing call by first base umpire Scott Potter gave the Sounds their early jump.
Mike Huff led off with a sinking liner to right that bounded harmlessly past a diving Tom Green. Harmlessly, that is, until Potter signaled it was fair and a surprised Green had to scurry back to retrieve the ball and hold Huff to a triple.
Naked-eye views and replays concurred that the ball landed at least a foot foul.
"That's what I thought," Green said. "Maybe I blocked his (Potter's) view when I dove. I didn't even think it was that close, that's why I didn't hop up quickly after it hit.
"You never know what will happen and I understand it was a tough call. He made it as he saw it and that's what you go by."
Paco Martin followed with a looping fly to short right that second baseman Omer Munoz dropped after nearly colliding with Green. That scored Huff and, after a Joe Hall double, Matt Merullo singled in two more runs to put the Herd in a hole it would never escape.
"I really couldn't see anything from the view in the dugout," Edwards said of the controversial play. "If it was foul, that's part of the game. If we make other plays, it's still just one run."
Instead, Miller (2-1) was in an undeserved hole. He gave up five runs on 10 hits in 7 1/3 innings, but settled down to retire 13 of 15 batters in one stretch after Nashville tallied once in the second to take a 4-1 lead.
Mongiello (6-2), who entered the game with a 4.66 earned-run average, yielded solo runs in the first and second. Jerry Goff's RBI double and Green's grounder knocked them home, but the Bisons could do little else. Mongiello held the Bisons hitless for five innings in one stretch.
The Buffalo lineup continues to be ravaged by injuries and call-ups, with third baseman Gary Cooper the latest casualty. Edwards said he expects Cooper to go on the disabled list today due to a pulled groin suffered while running out a single Tuesday in Oklahoma City.
Meanwhile, outfielder Andy Tomberlin is still at least another week to 10 days away from returing from the broken hand he suffered June 29.
"It's disheartening to us because of all the guys we have out. I don't see anybody out of their lineup now and I haven't most of this year," Edwards said.
"Last year, we really only lost (first baseman Jose) Tolentino for any extended period due to an injury. That hasn't been the case with this team. So I'm proud of how these guys have hung together. We still have time."
Roy Smith (11-7) pitches for Buffalo tonight (7:00, Radio 550) against Nashville's Frank Campos (3-2).