The Buffalo Bisons had lost all six games against Charlotte this season and were 1-13 against the Knights the last two years. So after the Herd finally eked out a 5-4 win Thursday afternoon in Dunn Tire Park, manager Torey Lovullo started talking as soon as the media entered his office.
"Yes, it's a relief," a stone-faced Lovullo said -- before a question was even asked. "When you lose 13 out of 14 to a team over the last two years, it starts to get bothersome. So it's quite a relief."
This one wasn't easy, either. Buffalo had a 4-2 lead in the ninth, but Casey Rogowski's two-out, two-run homer to right-center off closer Edward Mujica dramatically tied the score at 4-4. The game seemed over until that swing, and Charlotte reliever Dewon Day must have thought so, too, because he clearly wasn't ready to pitch the bottom of the inning.
Day walked the first three hitters on 12 straight pitches (the last two to Keith Ginter were intentional). On a 1-1 pitch, Andy Marte cued a bleeder down the first-base line that appeared to just nick the bag. It eluded Rogowski for a single to drive in Luis Rivas with the winning run and send the crowd of 9,103 home happy.
Rogowski and Knights manager Marc Bombard argued the ball was foul, but umpires didn't listen to their claims.
"We got that monkey off our back, that's for sure," said Herd leadoff man Trent Durrington, who had three hits and scored twice. "From the seventh inning [when Buffalo scored three runs to take a 4-2 lead], we had got some momentum so [the home run] didn't really kill us too much."
Mujica, who had been 13 for 16 in save opportunities, vultured a win to improve to 2-1. Starter Aaron Laffey went six innings and left in a 2-1 hole, but Buffalo's three-run rally in the seventh got him off the hook with a no-decision.
Laffey, pulled in the third inning Sunday in anticipation of a call-up to the Cleveland Indians that has yet to materialize, gave up just three hits. The no-decision kept intact his streak of seven straight wins, one shy of the franchise record for a starter.
Lovullo said he wasn't concerned Laffey's focus would be sidetracked by all the talk this week that the pitcher might be headed to Cleveland for the first time.
"We knew it could have been a distraction, but he was solid," Lovullo said. "He did a really nice job all the way around. It's part of the game, and you've got to learn to deal with it."
"I came in and tried to treat it like any other start," Laffey said. "I didn't have time to let a lot of outside thoughts enter my mind. I treated it as if I was going to be here. If I did get the call, I'd be happy and excited."
Laffey fell behind in the second on Wiki Gonzalez's two-out, two-run homer to left, but the Knights never got another runner past second base against him. After 6-foot-10 Charlotte starter Andrew Sisco threw five shutout innings, Buffalo rallied against the Knights' bullpen for a run in the sixth and three in the seventh -- with Rivas' two-run single giving the Herd a 3-2 lead.
The looper to right took a lot of pressure from an offense that had scored just four runs in the first 24 innings of this series.
"That hit really got us pushed in the right direction," Lovullo said.
The Bisons and Knights complete the homestand tonight (7:35 p.m., Radio 1230 & 1330 AM). Lefty John Koronka (0-2) goes for Buffalo against Charlotte's Nick Masset (0-1).