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Germano’s struggles continue in Herd loss

If only Justin Germano could go back to 2012.

That’s when no one could figure out the right-hander who started the season with a 1.69 ERA on his way to being named to the International League All-Star Team. But on Thursday Germano dropped his third consecutive start as the Buffalo Bisons fell to the Indianapolis Indians, 7-3, at Cola-Cola Field.

Umpires were determined to finish this matchup between the Bisons, tied for first with Pawtucket coming into the game in the International League’s North Division, and the IL West Division-leading Indians. After a rain delay at the start that lasted nearly an hour, the teams played under a constant downpour.

The Indians (33-15) got to Germano early which has been a recurring theme since the start of the month. He suffered through his shortest outing of the season, giving up six earned runs on six hits in just three innings.

Germano, the club’s Opening Day starter, went 3-1 in April although his ERA was a not-so-flattering 6.65. That’s fine when the Bisons’ bats were producing runs as effortlessly as they did in April, but on nights like Thursday when the Herd couldn’t piece together any timely hits, he needs to pitch with more consistency.

He hasn’t won since April 22’s victory at Lehigh Valley, going 0-3 with a no-decision. After Thursday’s game, Germano’s ERA grew from 6.37 to 7.16.

“He pitched in better, I thought, the second time through but it was a matter of him locating all his pitches and allowing him to pitch ahead in the count,” Bisons manager Marty Brown said. “Anytime we’ve struggled with our rotation that’s been the problem.” ... Every pitch has to mean something.”

The Bisons found themselves in a hole early when Alex Presley parked an 0-2 offering from Germano into Bully Hill in left. Then with one on, Germano threw a belt-high fastball to Matt Hague and he crushed it over the fence in left-center to give Indy a 3-0 lead.

“When you’re not a hard thrower, there’s a small room for error,” Brown said. “Justin’s not a hard thrower. Dave Bush is not a hard thrower. Claudio Vargas isn’t a blower, but he pitches it 90 where those guys are pitching it 86. The mistakes that they make, they usually end up paying for them.”

“He was trying to get the balls inside to them and he couldn’t get them in there,” Herd catcher Josh Thole said.

The Herd sliced into the Indy’s lead quickly, pulling within 3-1 after one on Thole’s hit to center with runners at first and second.

Germano loaded the bases in the third and gave up a run when he plucked Brett Carroll with a fastball up and in. Then a pop up out of play summed up a frustrating night for the Bisons. Tony Sanchez’s shot went high in the air behind home plate and was caught in the lights. Jimenez appeared to have a beat on it at first then Germano ran toward the dish but the ball landed harmlessly behind Thole.

Sanchez hit a line drive to center that was caught by Sierra who had to jump to make the play. But he was charged with an error after his throw sailed wide of the plate and handcuffed Thole, allowing a run to score. Jerry Sands followed with a two-run single to center and the Bisons trailed, 7-1.

“I don’t think anyone saw it but it’s a play, you make that and nobody scores and you never know what’s going to happen after that,” Thole said.

The Tribe’s Gerrit Cole, one of baseball’s top prospects, is scheduled to pitch against the Herd at 1:05 p.m. Saturday. ranked Cole the ninth best prospect in the minors.

Indianapolis 7, Bisons 3

The pitch: Germano loses his third consecutive game. ... Nanita homers in his Bisons debut. ... Thole hits solo homer.

Fast fact: The Bisons are 1-4 against the Indians this season.

Next game: 7:05 p.m. vs. Indianapolis at Coca-Cola Field (fridaynightbash!)