It took a bit of drama for the Buffalo Bisons to break out of a six-game losing skid, but perhaps drama is exactly what they needed.
With comebacks and home runs, the Herd swept its doubleheader against the Rochester Red Wings on Thursday afternoon.
About 1,000 of the announced 4,599 at Coca-Cola Field saw the Herd battle back to win the first game, 4-2, as the scheduled seven-inning game went to the 10th. The Bisons used a three-run sixth inning in the nightcap to earn a 4-1 win.
"We needed good pitching performances and we got it," Bisons manager Tim Teufel said. "It was miserable out there once again but we seemed to have it all going. It's great to see some clutch hitting. It's always good to put that into a game. [Thursday] it showed up."
The drama began in the seventh inning of the opener, when Kirk Nieuwenhuis changed the game with his glove and his bat.
In the top of the seventh, he made an incredible diving catch in center field with his glove outstretched and fired the ball to second base to double up Rochester baserunner Chase Lambin and end the inning.
He then led off the bottom of the inning against Rochester starting pitcher Kyle Gibson, who became the first opponent ever to take a no-hitter into the final scheduled inning in the 24-year history of the downtown ballpark.
With the count 3-1, he drove a pitch over the fence in left center to tie the game.
"It was a ball a little bit in the gap and thankfully I was able to get to it and it changed things for us," Nieuwenhuis said of the defensive play. "It was just kind of a coincidence that I was up to bat next, but it was good to feed off of. [Gibson] had his game going. He had all three pitches going. He just fell behind in that at-bat and I was able to put a good swing on it."
In the eighth, Rochester took a 2-1 lead but that's when Nick Evans put on his clutch hitting performance. Evans hit a solo homer to tie the game in the eighth and then a two-run homer in the 10th to give the Herd the win.
In the second game, Ruben Tejada came through with big hits. His solo shot in the second inning gave the Bisons a 1-0 lead. Then, with the scored tied at 1-1 and the bases loaded, his two-run double in the sixth secured the win.
"Nick was very aggressive today. So was Tejada pulling two balls, one out of the ballpark and one for a double in key situations," Teufel said. "That's what it's going to take. We've been missing that a little bit. We have confidence. If we get Nick Evans going, we know that's going to come around. We know Tejada is going to hit. I think hitting is contagious and hopefully we can build on this."
New York Mets catcher Ronny Paulino played in both games for the Herd, joining the club on a Major League rehab assignment. He went 0 for 6 on the day, starting the first game behind the plate and the second as the designated hitter.
Paulino was placed on the Mets' disabled list April 10 with anemia.
The Herd continues its homestand tonight, opening a four-game series with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (6:05 p.m., 1520 AM). Righty Josh Stinson (0-1, 13.50 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Herd against righty Brian Bass (0-0, 4.50).
Bisons 4, Rochester 2 (10 innings)
Bisons 4, Rochester 1
The Pitch: Bisons end six-game losing streak. ... Nieuwenhuis hits game-tying home run in the seventh of Game 1 ... Tejada has three RBIs in Game 2 with a solo homer and a two-run double.
Fast fact: Evans is the first Bison to homer twice in extra innings in the same game at Coca-Cola Field.
Next game: Today, vs. Lehigh Valley, 6:05 p.m., Coca-Cola Field (fridaynightbash!)