Dillon Gee won't look back on June too fondly, but he capped the month with one of his best performances of the season.
The Buffalo Bisons' pitcher tossed a gem on Tuesday night, giving up just one run on three hits with six strikeouts in seven complete innings as the Herd opened up a five-game homestand by defeating the rival Syracuse Chiefs, 6-1, at Coca-Cola Field.
Gee isn't the only Bison who wants to put June in his rearview mirror. The Bisons (40-39) avoided falling below .500 for the first time since they were 0-1 after dropping opener at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Twice this season the Bisons have been 10 games over .500 but entered Tuesday's game 6-15 since June 6, which coincides with Mike Hessman's injury and the call-up of Jesus Feliciano.
But the Bisons provided plenty of insurance with 11 hits. Justin Turner (2 for 5), Mike Jacobs (2 for 4 and two RBIs), J.R. House (2 for 4, two RBIs) and Fernando Martinez (2 for 4) each had multiple hits. Jose De La Torre and Manny Acosta came in relief to finish the game.
"[Gee] was aggressive and went after hitters," Herd manager Ken Oberkfell said. "He was determined. He had been struggling, and he wanted to get back to the way he had been pitching, and that's the way we know he can pitch."
It was a nice bounce back for Gee, who looked dreadful in June but notched his first win since May 28. In five starts this month, Gee went 0-4 with an 8.87 ERA while opponents feasted at the plate (.362). Now compare that to the first two months of the season when he was one of the International League's best after going 6-1 with a 3.92 ERA and opponents hit just .244.
"Not good," said Gee when asked about his level of confidence. "I've been a little down lately."
Gee's last outing against Gwinnett on June 24 was especially rough when he worked a season-low three innings and was rocked for seven runs and seven hits. Gee said he was overthrowing his pitches and getting the ball up in the strike zone.
"I was very frustrated with the way things had been going," he said. "I just got keep working hard and hopefully it will continue to be like this. It was about staying down in the bottom of the zone, throwing strikes and not getting behind guys."
On Tuesday, Gee (7-5) allowed a double to Chris Duncan in the third and took a one-hitter into the top of the sixth inning. Gee struck out the first two hitters he faced, then he plunked Syracuse outfielder Leonard Davis in the back of his right shoulder, a possible retaliation for when Davis took out Herd second baseman Daniel Murphy with a vicious slide in the June 2 game in Buffalo. Murphy will miss the rest of the year with a torn MCL, and the Bisons' Andy Green called it the dirtiest slide he's seen in his 11 years in pro baseball.
Said Gee about the pitch with a smile as wide as the Cheshire Cat: "It just got away from me."
Gee gave up his only run of the game when Davis scored on a single by Jason Botts. Gee responded with a 1-2-3 seventh inning.
Outfielder Jason Pridie was activated off the disabled list on Tuesday but was taken out of the game after aggravating the same right hamstring strain that forced him to miss 39 games. Pridie will be evaluated today.
The Herd sent infielder Jonathon Malo to Double-A Binghamton.
The Bisons have sold more than 12,000 tickets for Saturday's Independence Eve Celebration and have 6,000 remaining. First pitch against Rochester is at 6:05 p.m.
>Bisons 6, Syracuse 1
The pitch: Gee tosses a three-hitter for his first win since May 28. ... Duda hits a solo home run in the third. ... Turner, Jacobs, House and Martinez each had two hits for the Herd.
Fast fact: The Bisons are 7-15 since June 6.
Next game: Today vs. Syracuse, 1:05 p.m. at Coca-Cola Field (Super Bisons Bingo!).