For Buffalo Bisons third baseman Zach Lutz, there is nothing like a walk-off double to help erase some bad memories from an otherwise frustrating season.
Lutz doubled home the winning run in the bottom of the ninth to defeat the Syracuse Chiefs, 3-2, in front of 8,133 at Coca-Cola Field on Thursday afternoon. The victory prevented a six-game slide for the reeling Bisons.
Lutz's season has been more about freak injuries and lengthy stays on the disabled list than big hits, but after his game-winner it was all smiles for the 25-year-old.
"I love being around the field and being around the ballpark," Lutz said. "To be down like that and only be playing around 45 to 50 games this year, it's been rough. I'm just happy to be back playing and hopefully we can finish this year strong."
For a quick synopsis of Lutz's luck this year, you only need to glance at his health records.
Lutz has been hit in the head by a pitch twice. The first came in June and the second in July. Both warranted stays on the disabled list for a combined 24 days.
His most unusual injury came earlier in the year.
In April, Lutz was sitting alongside the dugout in a game against Rochester. A foul ball to the right ring finger sent Lutz to the DL for nearly two months, causing him to miss 44 games.
It wouldn't hurt to mention that he missed two months last year with a stress fracture in his left foot.
"I've had my ups and downs," Lutz said. "But my family has always been there by my side to help get me through everything. Whenever I'm down they are always there to get me back up and I'm just happy to be back out there now."
Despite the misery Lutz has actually had himself a decent year. In 43 games with the Herd, he's hit .292 with six home runs and 18 RBIs.
In Wednesday's 6-1 loss to Syracuse, he homered for the Bisons' only run. He followed that performance with his first ever walk-off hit.
"He's been fighting to get at-bats and fighting to get in this season," manager Tim Teufel said. "Last year it was some other injuries that prevented him from being on the field, but he looks healthy now and he's going to play the last month of the season. Hopefully he'll put up the numbers that he is capable of doing and he'll have a good August."
The big hit came off of Chiefs pitcher Josh Wilkie, who was called in to pitch the ninth. By the time Lutz reached the plate there was one out and Valentino Pascucci was at first after a single.
The pitcher and hitter had met on Tuesday night when the Chiefs beat the Bisons, 3-2, in 11 innings. Wilkie hit Lutz with a pitch in that game, but was able to escape the 10th inning and get the win despite having runners on the corners with one out.
On Thursday, Lutz was better prepared for Wilkie and said the familiarity helped him.
"I was down in the count and I was just trying to see a pitch that I could barrel up a little bit," Lutz said. "He left a slider up in the zone a little bit and I put a good swing on it and good things happened."
Despite the rough patch this year, Teufel said one thing has remained the same about Lutz: He is commonly the first player to the field on game day and a hard worker behind the scenes.
Sometimes Lutz even gets grief from his teammates for having his jersey on too early before the game.
"If he played basketball, he'd be a gym rat," Teufel said. "He comes to the field early and he loves the yard and being on the field. He doesn't want to be on the bench, that's the last place that he wants to be."