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RARE BURSTS OF SPEED HELP HERD IN NIGHTCAP

The Buffalo Bisons are last in the International League with four stolen bases and figure to be there most of the season. With few speed threats in the lineup, don't expect many innings like the sixth inning of Sunday's nightcap.

The damage tab in the decisive frame of a 5-3 win over Pawtucket was five runs on four hits, including two bunt singles and a third chopper that never left the infield.

"I thought it was pretty impressive for a bunch of slugs to be able to play 'smallball,' " catcher Dusty Wathan said with a laugh. "There's not a whole lot of guys who can run on this team, and we got one ball out of the infield. It was nice to show that we can do that."

Trying to survive through a driving rain, Wathan started it off with a perfect bunt down the third-base line.

"If they keep playing back, I'll bunt a lot," Wathan said. "It was cold, real cold, and it gave me an opportunity to lay one down. It was raining hard at that point, too. Even if they do field the ball cleanly, it's a tough play with the rain."

"The bad thing is when Dusty goes and bunts for a hit, I can't pinch-run for him," cracked manager Marty Brown. "That would look kind of bad."

Mike Kinkade's two-run single broke a scoreless tie, Jake Thrower scored the third run from second on Ryan Garko's grounder, Jeff Liefer scampered home on Ernie Young's infield single and Young eventually scored on a wild pitch.

"Those were go-ahead runs of the game since they scored three (in the seventh)," Brown said. "It came down to something we can control: hustle on the bases."

Center fielder Darnell McDonald, who is appealing his 15-game suspension for a positive steroid test, started both games and was strong defensively in each one. In the first inning of the nightcap, McDonald fired a strike to home plate to nail George Lombard trying to tag and score on Kevin Youkilis' fly ball.

"Darnell is a professional who's here to compete and play, and he's working hard," Brown said. "He brings an element to our defense we don't have without him. There's nothing really to be said about anything else. It's just business as usual until he hears different."

The two home runs in the second inning Saturday by Pawtucket catcher Kelly Shoppach gave him six for the season and put him in a tie for the IL lead with Indianapolis' Ryan Doamit and Columbus' Rich Jones. It was the first time in Dunn Tire Park's 18-year history a player had homered twice in one inning.

Shoppach went 1 for 7 in Sunday's twin bill and is batting .271 for the season. He batted just .233 last year for Pawtucket, his first in Triple-A.

Kyle Denney (0-1, 2.65 ERA) will start for Buffalo when the homestand concludes tonight at 6:05 (Radio 1230, 1330 AM). Pawtucket's scheduled starter is Jeremi Gonzalez (0-1, 2.77), although it's possible Boston pitcher Wade Miller will go on a rehab assignment because his scheduled outing at Double-A Portland has been rained out the last two days.
e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com