It's the final week of the regular season for the Buffalo Bisons, but as the team prepares to close up shop for another season, there's still plenty to play for.
Team wins are still key, but so too are individual honors. And first baseman/designated hitter Valentino Pascucci is in contention for an impressive accomplishment.
Pascucci leads the International League in runs batted in with 91 and could become just the third Bison in the Modern Era (since 1985) to lead the league in that category.
He helped his total and the Bisons' cause Sunday night, blasting a solo home run to left field as the Herd earned a 3-1 win over the Rochester Red Wings in front of 10,177 in Coca-Cola Field.
The hit and RBI helped bust Pascucci out of a bit of a rut, after going just 1 for 21 in the last six games without an RBI.
With 91 RBIs and eight games remaining, Pascucci is in position for one of the best production years at the plate and to make Bisons history.
Pascucci's career high for RBIs was 98 in 2007 with Albuquerque and he had 92 with Edmonton in 2004, but neither total was good enough for the Pacific Coast League title.
As for Herd history, the only Modern Era Bisons to win a league RBI title were Jeromy Burnitz (1995) and Nigel Wilson (1996) both in the American Association. The last Bison to win an RBI title in the International League was Pancho Herrera in 1962.
"Different people have talked about [leading the league] but it's just something you look to do during the game," Pascucci said. "If there are guys on, it's my job to drive them in. Hopefully I'll keep doing that. The numbers aren't really important until the end when it's over and you look back and see what you've done. Right now there's still time to add more numbers and keep going and hopefully more RBIs lead to more wins at the end of the season."
But Pascucci doesn't just drive runs in. His approach is to be patient at the plate, demonstrated by his base on balls statistic -- he has drawn 72 walks on the season, the second most in the IL. It's all about his approach at the plate when runners are in scoring position.
"You really want to zone up the ball and get it in your area," Pascucci said. "You don't want to go chasing pitchers pitches, you know, guys throwing sliders away that they'll try to get you to chase. With runners in scoring position, the pitcher's the one in trouble, not myself. I always tell myself that and just go up, relax, look for pitch to hit and if it's not there, don't chase it. I'll take my walk and let the next guy drive someone in, get another runner on base."
Pascucci scored the game's first run in the fourth inning. He and Josh Satin drew back-to-back walks, each advancing on a single by Jesus Feliciano. Pascucci then scored on a single by Hernandez.
The single by Feliciano was his 100th hit of the season, making him the first Bison in the Modern Era to have three consecutive 100-hit seasons. In 2009, he had 154 while last year he finished with 114.
Buffalo took a 2-0 lead in the fifth when Raul Chavez scored on a wild pitch.
Pat Misch (8-9) picked up the win, allowing only an unearned run in the seventh when the Wings loaded the bases with no outs. He struck out five and walked four.
Today is the final Bargain Monday of the season, featuring $7 tickets and $1 popcorn and ice cream for the 7:05 p.m. game against Rochester. The first 4,000 fans through the Swan Street entrance will also receive a double bobblehead of Buster T. Bison and Mr. Met. Gates open at 6 p.m.