It must feel like 1992 all over for Marc Bombard. Suit up at Pilot Field, walk out with a victory.
Bombard did it 50 times in 72 games as Buffalo Bisons manager that season in leading the Herd to the East Division title. He's now won six in a row here at the helm of the Indianapolis Indians, with the latest being Thursday's 3-1 decision that completed a three-game sweep.
The Bisons won 16 out of the first 20 against Bombard's club last year, but dropped the final four. Three came in an August series at Pilot that started Buffalo spiraling out of the East race.
The Bisons were in second place when Bombard hit town Tuesday. He leaves with the Herd on a four-game skid to sixth and his club on a six-game win streak.
"It's funny how you just never know in this game," said Bombard, whose club was 66-77 last year. "They pounded us real good most of last year and things have turned around now.
"We're playing great and I love coming here. The people took care of me so well, I'd be lying if I didn't say I missed it. It's nice to at least be in a league where we can come through."
Especially if Indy keeps racking up wins. Thursday's game was decided by the Indians' two-run ninth off Paul Miller (1-3), in his first relief outing.
With one out and the score tied at 1-1, Brian Koelling legged out a bunt single off Miller. Pinch-hitter Casey Candaele then smacked an 0-2 pitch over the head of left fielder Darren Reed for a triple to give Indy a 2-1 lead. He scored an insurance run on Steve Pegues' sacrifice fly.
A School Day crowd of about 4,000 (13,875 tickets were sold) saw the Bisons' second straight last-inning loss. Indy posted a 9-8, 11-inning win on Wednesday.
"You have to win a few like that to build the confidence in yourself and make you believe you can contend," Bombard said.
Right now, the Bisons don't have that -- particularly when they go to the bullpen. Since Dan Miceli left for Pittsburgh last Thursday, the relievers are 1-4 with a 4.78 earned-run average.
That makes manager Doc Edwards' decision to lift Scott Scudder even more curious. Scudder allowed one run in six innings after taking over from injury rehabbing Alejandro Pena in the second, even fanning two in his last inning. Frank Bolick pinch hit for him with two out and nobody on.
"That's the way they've done it for 100 years. You pinch hit in the seventh, eighth and ninth to get a run," Edwards said. "Scudder can't go forever, and that situation is what your bench is for."
A slight breeze blowing out to right was aiding the left-handed hitting Bolick, but he struck out.
The Bisons managed just six hits off three Indy pitchers. They got their run in the fourth on Rich Aude's RBI single.
Pena pitched the first inning, allowed one hit and got three strikeouts. He headed back to Pittsburgh before the game was over to rejoin the Pirates.
Reed was activated from the disabled list before the game and the Herd released outfielder Mike Simms, who was leading the team with four home runs.
Simms, a .236 hitter who was a liability in left field, was let go because of the Pirates' decision to go with 12 pitchers. That forced a numbers crunch in Buffalo when outfielder Will Pennyfeather was sent down last week.
"It had nothing to do with Simms," Edwards said. "Somebody had to go, and it couldn't be a younger prospect."
The Bisons open a seven-game road trip tonight at Louisville (7:15, Radio 1400). Pitcher Jon Lieber, just up from Double A Carolina, makes his Bison debut.