Jason Stanford was touched for two runs on Tuesday, ending his brief string of supremacy over International League hitters.
Only one other pitcher in the IL had yet to give up run this season, so it was only fitting that Stanford helped drag the Buffalo Bisons out of a two-game skid.
The Bisons won, 10-5, over the Syracuse Chiefs at Dunn Tire Park in front of a crowd of about 1,000 (5,285 tickets were sold) behind Stanford, who was wobbly at times, yet good enough to win his third game without a loss. He had yielded just four hits and threw shutout baseball over his first 13 innings this season, but allowed seven hits and two runs through five frames against the Chiefs (7-11).
"He's been lights out each outing," said first baseman Ryan Mulhern, who gave the Bisons an 8-2 lead in the seventh with a two-run homer to left. "He's been locating well and has a lot of confidence when he's on the mound. It's kind of expected considering the performance he's had this year."
The Bisons offense did its part with 13 hits and breaking the game open with seven runs combined in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. Luis Rivas, who went 0 for 4 Sunday against Pawtucket, recovered by going 3 for 5 with a double, triple and two RBIs.
This is just what the Herd needed after dropping back-to-back games for the first time this season, to the PawSox over the weekend.
"It's always fun playing when you're hitting and putting up some runs," Mulhern said. "It makes it more fun than 1-2-3 and going back on the field."
With Stanford and top prospect Adam Miller pitching so well and Fausto Carmona expected back in the rotation soon, the Bisons are rich with sturdy arms. Miller (2-0) is scheduled tonight and the Bisons are 3-0 when he starts.
"Whoever we get [from Cleveland]," said Bisons manager Torey Lovullo, "is going to fit nicely into this rotation."
And Stanford, who underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2004, may finally return to the form that earned him Bisons Pitcher of the Year honors in 2003. His arm is lively again after he spent most of the offseason building strength in his left shoulder.
"It's showing with all my pitches so far this year," Stanford said. "I'm able to throw my change-up, I'm able to throw my slider, and the fastball is getting back to where it needs to be."
Stanford worked out of a jam in the top of the second.
Wayne Lydon lined a shot out of the reach of third baseman Keith Ginter and Russ Adams, who walked to start the inning, moved to second. Kevin Barker walked to load the bases for John-Ford Griffin, who flied out to left but deep enough to score Adams from third.
Then John Hattig hit a shot between right and center to score Lydon. Hattig ran with his head down, trying to stretch the hit into a triple, and didn't see Barker stop at third as the relay reached catcher Mike Rose. Hattig tried to dive back to second but Rose threw him out. Curtis Thigpen popped out to end the inning with the Bisons still leading 3-2.
"I started out really well but I think that long inning got me [out of] rhythm a little bit and walking that first guy and not being able to come back and throw strikes was really the big difference," Stanford said. "But for the most part, I was able to throw strikes and get ahead of the guys. My defense made some really good plays in timely situations and that was huge."
Bisons 10, Syracuse 5
The pitch: When starter Jason Stanford allowed two runs in the third inning they were the first earned runs he's allowed this season. . . . Luis Rivas went 3 for 5 with a double, triple and two RBIs. . . . The Bisons ended a two-game losing streak.
Fast fact: The Bisons committed their 20th error of the season in the first inning.
Next game: Tonight vs. Syracuse Chiefs, 6:05 p.m., Dunn Tire Park.