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BIG RELIEF: BISONS AVERT A SWEEP

You'd think having their starter called up to the big leagues the night before he was scheduled to pitch would be bad news, but not for these Buffalo Bisons. Even without right-hander Chad Durbin, the Bisons came out on top Thursday against Richmond, 4-0, in Dunn Tire Park.

Credit the Buffalo bullpen, which shut down the International League South Division-leading Braves -- one of the best offensive teams in the league. The bullpen gave up just three hits to avoid a series sweep in front of 9,591.

The Bisons are just a half-game behind IL North Division leader Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, which lost to Rochester, 4-1.

Durbin, slated to start Thursday, was recalled to Cleveland late Wednesday night and will pitch in one of the Indians' two games against the Chicago White Sox on Saturday. Durbin began the season with the Indians and went 3-4 with a 10.70 ERA in 10 outings, including two starts. The 26-year-old was sent to Buffalo on May 29 and had a 3-3 record and 3.46 ERA in nine starts.

The Bisons ended up starting Jack Cressend on last-minute notice. Cressend was solid for three innings -- facing just 11 batters and allowing one hit and one walk while striking out three. He was pulled early because he has not pitched long stretches this season. Cressend's longest outing was a 4 1/3 -inning appearance June 21.

"He hadn't been built up to pitch any more than that," Bisons manager Marty Brown said. "He's been in the rotation, but he hasn't pitched in a while. He had some soreness here the first day after he pitched last time, so we backed him off. Fortunately, he was cleaned up enough to give us three. He did a great job."

Brown said Cressend was not held to a specified pitch count.

"Jack would have been back out if we asked him to," he said, "but we've got more games left in the year."

Buffalo has not suffered a sweep since dropping all four at Columbus in May. Richmond won the first three games by a combined 13 runs.

The Bisons scored three of their four runs in the third inning.

After retiring the side in order in the first and second innings, Braves starter Dan Meyer ran into trouble in the third, facing eight batters and giving up three runs -- one earned. Catcher Dusty Wathan doubled in a run off the right-field wall, and right fielder Ryan Ludwick, with the bases loaded, came up with a two-run single.

"My goal is to go out and catch well and keep the team in the ballgame defensively," said Wathan, who was 2 for 3 with an RBI and a run scored. "But if I can go out and get an RBI and get a couple hits and help the team out, then that's tremendous."

Five Buffalo pitchers combined for the three-hitter, with the win going to reliever Jake Robbins (4-1). Robbins faced nine batters in two scoreless innings and gave up one hit. Meyer (1-2) took the loss.

"I think everybody coming in the park today, you feel kind of down about it. You've already lost three games to Richmond," Brown said. "(Our players) lost their starter. I credit these guys. They played deep. The bullpen stepped it up today when they had to."

The Bisons start their first road series since the All-Star break tonight at Syracuse (7 p.m., Radio 1520 AM). Jason Davis (1-0, 4.50) is scheduled to take the mound against the SkyChiefs' Cameron Reimers (1-2, 6.46).

Cleveland pitcher Jeriome Robertson was optioned to the Bisons when Durbin went up. Robertson, acquired from the Houston Astros for two minor-league outfielders in a trade just before the season, is coming to Buffalo for the third time this year.

In two stints in Cleveland this season, he had a 12.21 ERA in eight relief appearances. Robertson gave up four runs in two-thirds of an inning Wednesday in Cleveland's 14-0 loss to the White Sox before being ejected after hitting Magglio Ordonez with a pitch.
e-mail: ksim@buffnews.com

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