Maybe it was the excitement of his first Triple-A game. Maybe it was the setting of the game, down a run in the seventh inning. Or maybe it was that day off he had Monday.
Whatever it was, outfielder Matt den Dekker provided the energy and key hit for the Buffalo Bisons as they took an 8-7 win over the Norfolk Tides at Coca-Cola Field on Tuesday night.
The Herd took advantage of six errors by Norfolk, including three in the pivotal seventh inning. The Bisons were trailing, 6-5, with one out when den Dekker turned a single into a double and advanced to third on a throwing error by the right fielder. It was astute and skillful base running by den Dekker, who never hesitated when he turned second base. He then turned his first Triple A hit into his first run scored, coming home on a single up the middle by Corey Wimberly to tie the game at 6.
"I got a good curve ball to hit and I hit it down the line," den Dekker said. "I thought I could get two. I tried to stretch it in there and got it. And then the ball ricocheted off my leg [on the throw] and I got to third. We were down a run and had to scratch to tie it up."
Said Bisons manager Wally Backman: "I think it was the biggest hit of the game. It gave us some energy, some life. Down by a run, a base hit to right field and what you saw [Tuesday] is the way the kid plays all the time. He turned the base hit into a double. Forced and error. Ended up on third base. He's kind of a game changer at times. He's got power in his bat. He's got speed."
Two more errors helped the Bisons' cause, including a dropped ball in right field that scored the go-ahead run. Josh Stain scored on a wild pitch as the Bisons built an 8-6 lead.
The 24-year old den Dekker was red hot for Double-A Binghamton. Before his promotion on Tuesday, he led the Eastern League in batting average (.340), hits (81) and runs scored (47). In 58 games with the B-Mets he drove in 29 runs.
Tuesday, for the Bisons, he finished 1 for 4 with a walk, two strikeouts and a run scored.
"It was exciting to be here. An exciting first night," den Dekker said. "I feel good. I saw the ball pretty well. I had the day off [Monday] so maybe I'm well rested. It feels good to be here and to try and help the team win."
The Herd scored first, taking a 2-0 lead on a two-out, two-run double by Sean Kazmar.
The Tides came back to tie the game in the third on a two-out, two-run single by Lew Ford.
The Herd regained the lead in the bottom of the inning when Josh Satin crushed a two-run home run to left field for a 4-2 lead. But the Tides knotted it again at 4 on a two-run homer by Jamie Hoffman.
Buffalo again took the lead, 5-4, in the fifth when Satin hit into a double play that scored Wimberly from third.
The Tides took their only lead of the game in the sixth, tying it on a solo homer by Bill Hall then going up 6-5 on an RBI double by Blake Davis.
Tuesday's announced attendance was 4,501 but as a powerful rain shower came through downtown Buffalo delaying the start of the game by 30 minutes, there were maybe a quarter of that amount in the stands. Outfielder Dustin Martin was transferred to Double-A Binghamton. He batted .257 in 28 games with the Bisons. Today is a league-wide off day. The Bisons will continue their homestand Thursday (7:05 p.m) when they host Pawtucket to begin a four-game series. Right-hander Matt Harvey (5-2, 3.88 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Herd against Doug Mathis (4-3, 4.50 ERA).