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Shocking power surge; Rottino's big day still a hot topic

Vinny Rottino did roughly the same amount of damage at the plate Sunday as the rest of the Buffalo Bisons. Which means he did nothing.

Rottino went 0 for 4 and the Bisons managed a season-low two hits in a 4-1 loss to Indianapolis before 6,875 at Coca-Cola Field. But it was a rare clunker at home in recent weeks for the Bisons, who had won four straight and thrilled their fans with a six-homer explosion in Saturday night's 11-6 win.

Rottino carved a slice of franchise history in that one, becoming just the fourth Buffalo player to hit three home runs in a game downtown. The ace utility man, who served as the Herd catcher for the second straight game Sunday, might be the most unlikely of the quartet.

Teammate Val Pascucci, who did it in 2010, and franchise home run leader Jeff Manto (1997) rate as vaunted power hitters. Catcher Dusty Wathan didn't go deep often in his career but he belted 14 in 2005 and connected for three of them, along with a franchise-record nine RBIs, in a memorable matinee against Toledo.

Rottino, 32, entered Saturday's game with just one home run on the season and only 78 in over 1,100 career minor-league games.

The 3-hour, 50-minute affair -- the longest in franchise history for nine innings -- stretched until nearly 11 p.m. and it was around 10:30 when Rottino took Indy reliever Kris Johnson deep to left for his third long ball of the night, a two-run shot to left. He also homered in the third and sixth and finished with five RBIs.

Sunday morning, Rottino simply stayed in his routine of taking some batting practice in the ballpark's basement cages.

"That's kind of cool. Definitely," he said of being in the group of four. "I love minor league baseball. I love to play. I play as hard as I can every day but ultimately you're working on the stuff that will get you to the big leagues. Stay consistent and see what happens. It was a good night."

Rottino entered Sunday with a .316 batting average that was tied for sixth in the International League. He's a career .295 hitter whose best full season was a .314 mark at Nashville in 2006.

"Any time somebody can hit three in a game, it's unbelievable," said Pascucci, who also took Indianapolis deep thrice here back in 2010. "He got some sort of hanging changeup and I was on the top step [of the dugout] when he hit it. I knew it was gone right off the bat. It was a great feeling for me. He was pretty excited when he came in the dugout and everybody was excited for him."

Rottino's three-homer game was the eighth of the season in the minor leagues. There have been three in the big leagues (Curtis Granderson, Ryan Braun, Joey Votto) in addition to the four-homer game by Texas' Josh Hamilton May 8 at Baltimore.

"I'm just a line-drive hitter," Rottino said. "I'm just thinking to drive a guy in with a fly ball but a lot of times you get a pitch elevated and that's what happens. Look up in the [strike] zone, get a sac fly. Sometimes, you catch it out front and it goes out of the ballpark like that."

Rottino lost a 20-game hitting streak with an 0-for-5 night Friday, a streak that was interrupted by a nine-day trip to the New York Mets. There's a chance he could get that call again today as the Mets open a series in Pittsburgh and will drop a pitcher and add another position player.

"He's definitely one of the candidates depending on what Terry [Mets manager Terry Collins] needs," said Bisons manager Wally Backman. "Vinny is very versatile."

"I played against Vinny a lot through the [Pacific Coast League] and known him a long time," Pascucci said. "He's always been a good hitter and it just all came together for him on the power end in one night."

email: mharrington@buffnews.com