The first inning certainly didn't bode well for Chris Schwinden and the Buffalo Bisons. A leadoff walk was followed by a single which led to a three-run deficit on a home run by Norfolk's Jake Fox.
Yet that proved to be the highlight of the afternoon for the visiting Tides as Schwinden retired the next 17 in a row while Val Pascucci ended a mini home-run draught in the seventh with a colossal shot to left field that broke a 3-all tie.
The Bisons (33-45) won their third consecutive game, 5-3, in front of a Coca-Cola crowd of about 4,000 on Sunday. With the final game of the four-game series at 7:05 p.m. tonight (1520-AM), the Herd is one victory shy of matching its longest win streak for the season.
Pascucci's shot traveled an estimated 420 feet over the left-field fence and had little difficulty clearing the 40-foot high net at Coca-Cola Field.
"The guy can swing," Schwinden said, "and that couldn't have come at a better time."
Pascucci's homer gave Schwinden the help he need to win his fifth game of the season. He was also victorious his last time out, allowing just one run in six innings last Tuesday against the Bulls in Durham.
In seven innings Sunday, Schwinden (5-3) allowed three runs on three hits, struck out seven and walked two as he increased his team-high totals in wins and strikeouts (67) while lowering his ERA to 3.12.
"You get touched early like that and it can rattle you for the day," Bisons manager Tim Teufel said. "He bounced back and retired 17 in a row and that's impressive in itself. There were a lot of 1-2-3 innings after that and he just pitched an extraordinary game."
The Bisons weren't on the field very long so the focus turned to hitting and the Herd cranked out 12. Four Bisons enjoyed multiple hit games, including Nick Evans, who extended his hit streak to 16 games by going 2-for-2 with two runs scored and a pair of walks.
"As a pitcher, you have to have short memory and the quicker you do that the better," said Schwinden, when asked about the first inning. "I tried to bounce back after that home run and try to get my team off the field and I did that."
Schwinden said his pitches were up in the strike zone initially so he made adjustments by throwing in-and-away.
"I've been trying to work on my mechanics on getting the ball down and relaxing out there and not getting too amped up like I did in the first inning," he said. "It was a motivational swing for me in the first inning and going out there and getting outs helps your team out."
Today (7:05, Radio 1520 AM), the Bisons send southpaw Mark Cohoon (1-4) against the Tides' Rick VandenHurk (5-7).
Bisons 5, Norfolk 3
The Pitch: Bisons win third in a row. Schwinden goes seven innings and gives up three runs for his fifth win. Pascucci hits his 10th home run of the season to break tie in seventh.
Fast fact: Evans extends his hit streak to 17 games.
Next game: Today vs. Norfolk, 7:05 p.m. at Coca-Cola Field (Bargain Monday!).