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Herd falls game behind in IL wild-card race

That explosive offense that has carried the Buffalo Bisons in this homestand cooled off Monday night.

A solid performance by Pawtucket starter Matt Barnes kept the Herd off balance and powered the Red Sox to a 6-2 win over the Herd in front of 12,448 at Coca-Cola Field.

The Bisons slipped a game behind the PawSox for the International League wild-card spot.

The two-run performance comes after the team strung together three straight games of double-digit runs.

“Sometimes you think you might be flat or something but you’ve got to tip your hat to their starter Barnes,” manager Gary Allenson said about the offensive dip. “He did a good job. He was aggressive. Got ahead for the most part and made us swing at his pitches.”

Barnes pitched 7∑ innings, allowing two runs on four hits with two walks and four strikeouts.

He was the beneficiary of an early 4-0 lead as the PawSox got to Bisons’ starter Brad Mills. Garin Cecchini smacked a bases-clearing double with one out in the fourth to put Pawtucket up, 3-0. They added another run in the fifth on an RBI single by Alex Hassan.

The Herd got on the board in the sixth with some aggressive base running.

Jonathan Diaz led off and stretched a double to right field into a triple. It was a risky play, but he slid into third ahead of the throw. The even better news for Diaz was the throw from the cutoff man sailed out of play, allowing Diaz to take the next base. Home plate it was.

“When I hit the ball and I saw it got stuck in the corner I thought I had third easy,” Diaz said.

“You want to be aggressive but you also gotta understand your run doesn’t really matter that much. You never want to make that first out at third base so you want to be smart at the same time. There’s a line there that I kind of balanced on.

Dalton Pompey drew a walk, stole second and advanced to third on a sacrifice to right by Anthony Gose. Pompey then scored when Brett Wallace muscled a single up the middle and the Bisons cut the lead in half.

But Pawtucket got those two runs back in the seventh thanks to an RBI single by Hassan and a passed ball charged to catcher George Kottaras.

The two teams meet again tonight in the last regular season game at Coca-Cola Field with the playoff race still tightly contested.

Rochester is still chasing in the wild card, 1½ games behind Pawtucket while first-place Syracuse has a 3½ game lead over Red Sox in the IL North Division race.

Tonight’s matchup at Coca-Cola Field (6:05 p.m.) will feature an impressive battle of starting pitchers.

Lefty Daniel Norris will make his fourth Triple-A start for the Herd. The prospect is 3-0 with a 1.08 in his first three starts with the Bisons. Originally scheduled to move to the bullpen for rest of the regular season, the Toronto Blue Jays reversed their thinking and have the 21-year-old making at least one more start.

Lefty Henry Owens (1-1, 3.51) is one of the top prospects in the Boston Red Sox organization and will take the mound for Pawtucket. The 22-year old was a first-round draft pick in 2011 was named an Eastern League All-Star on Monday.

He went 14-4 in Double-A Portland and was transferred to Pawtucket on Aug. 1 and was dazzling in his Triple-A debut, a 5-0 win over the Columbus Clippers on Aug. 4.

In that outing his fastball hit 93 and he did not give up a hit until the sixth inning, He struck out nine, walked three and gave up two hits over 6∏ innings.

With fewer than 6,000 tickets remaining as of Monday night, fans are urged to go to will call early, especially to redeem flex tickets, vouchers or rainouts. The box office opens at 9 a.m.