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Schwinden in control as Bisons hold off IronPigs

The Buffalo Bisons were just 5-7 overall. They were 2-4 on their season-opening homestand, even though they were batting .297 and averaging 6.2 runs.

The trouble spot was obvious. The pitching staff had issued 66 walks in the 12 games -- the most at any level of professional baseball.

The Bisons have already had a pair of 10-walk games, including Monday's ugly 8-2 loss to Lehigh Valley. Chris Schwinden was taking mental notes during that one, and enough was enough.

Schwinden walked just one in seven strong innings Tuesday as Buffalo corraled the IronPigs, 4-1, before about 500 fans in Coca-Cola Field.

Schwinden (2-1) allowed just four hits and didn't issue a walk until the seventh inning. The Bisons wrapped this one up in just 2 hours, 15 minutes, after the first six games of the stand averaged 3:24. That's because they threw strikes.

"Most of the time when your starting pitcher goes out there and throws to both sides of the plate and throws a lot of first-pitch strikes, that's exactly what happens," said manager Wally Backman. "You set the tone."

Schwinden acknowledged the situation bordered on absurd. His mind-set was that he would be doing better if he threw some fat pitches and let a couple of hitters take him deep rather than nibbling and issuing walks.

"That was spot-on," he said when the analysis was presented to him. "I don't care. I'll give up a few hits, but I'm definitely not walking a lot of guys tonight and it just worked out."

Schwinden had been as guilty as the rest of the staff, issuing eight walks in nine innings over his first two starts. He was openly unhappy with himself after walking five batters in four innings here Thursday against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Schwinden admitted he had a much more aggressive mind-set Tuesday than in his last outing, and he said the team needed that approach.

"Last night's game might not have bothered him as much as his last start," Backman said. "Chris was definitely focused on having a better start and doing what he's capable of doing, what he did here last year and what he did when he was called up to the big leagues."

"Today was just about throwing strikes and not thinking about it," Schwinden said. "Moving the ball in and out, changing speeds and changing eye levels [for hitters] was the big thing. [Catcher] Lucas May caught a great game, and that was pretty much the game plan."

The game plan was obvious from the first hitter. Lehigh Valley shortstop Andres Blanco worked the count full and was finally retired on the ninth pitch on a fly ball to left. Earlier in the at-bat, he narrowly missed a leadoff home run with a long fly to right that was just foul.

"It was a very big at-bat," Backman said. "That's what they want their leadoff hitter to do, go up there and see a lot of pitches. Chris basically threw everything he had but the kitchen sink. Chris battled, he got the outs, stayed ahead of the hitters and did a great job."

The Bisons won the game with a two-run fifth on May's RBI triple to right and Omar Quintanilla's RBI groundout. Second baseman Bobby Scales went 2 for 4, including a solo homer in the sixth, to push his IL-leading average to .444.

email: mharrington@buffnews.com