It didn’t appear things were going to get much better for Chad Jenkins on Saturday.
The Buffalo Bisons’ starter entered his second start of the season with a 13.50 earned-run average. On his fifth pitch of the game, he gave up a monster home run to Lehigh Valley second baseman Cord Phelps.
But Jenkins wasn’t deterred. He stuck with his game plan, retiring 14 of his final 15 batters as the Bisons squeaked out just enough offense for a 2-1 victory over the IronPigs on a sun-splashed afternoon at Coca-Cola Field.
“Well, it wasn’t blowing 35 miles an hour and raining,” Jenkins said of the difference from his first start of the season Monday night, when he was roughed up for eight runs in the third inning of a loss to Pawtucket. “I just settled down a little bit more.”
Jenkins admitted the trying conditions Monday got into his head. But otherwise, he didn’t make any mechanical adjustments before Saturday’s game with Bisons pitching coach Randy St. Claire.
“I didn’t work on anything during the week,” Jenkins said. “My first two innings the other day when it wasn’t pouring down rain were good, and then I hit a rough patch. I didn’t really feel like I needed to change anything. Maybe some composure. I lost it a little bit in the rain.”
Transitioning back to the starting rotation has taken some getting used to for Jenkins. He began his career as a starter, but worked out of the bullpen most of last season.
“I know how to start,” he said. “I know my routine pretty well. It’s just getting back into that.”
Jenkins knew in the first inning his sinker wasn’t working, so he threw more sliders. When Phelps came up a second time, he was ready.
“Especially in the minor leagues, there is a lot of ambushing. Guys are looking for first-pitch heaters, and if they see it, they’re going to swing,” Jenkins said. “I got him back second at-bat. First-pitch change-up and he screwed himself in the ground.”
Bisons manager Gary Allenson said Jenkins was on a pitch count of about 80. He ended up throwing 76 pitches in five innings, allowing two hits and striking out three, lowering his ERA to 5.87.
“He’s been around a little bit,” Allenson said. “He kept very good composure.”
The Bisons won despite leaving 13 runners on base, including eight in the first three innings.
“Was that all it was?” Allenson asked. “You’ve just got to be patient. It’s a nine-inning game, and good things happen when you’re patient.”
That patience was rewarded in the sixth inning when first baseman Chris Colabello blasted a solo home run to right field for the game-winning run.
“I think we were all pretty confident looking at the roster even in spring training, just knowing the kind of arms we were going to have, that it was going to take some pressure off us as an offense to have to score a lot of runs,” Colabello said. “They’ve kept us in the game pretty much every day since the beginning of the year. To have won five in a row and really, I don’t think, fully come together as an offense, it could be really scary what could happen.”