Taken individually, the plays were nothing much to worry about.
So the pitcher lost his control and walked a guy. There was one RBI hit. It was a three-run lead in the ninth inning and the Buffalo Bisons had shown a penchant for wasting base runners in their series with Lehigh Valley.
It should have been a done deal for the IronPigs.
But this is baseball. Nothing is a done deal and anyone can be the hero.
Sunday afternoon at Coca-Cola Field it was catcher Sean Ochinko who played that role, drilling a two-out, two-run double in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Bisons a 5-4 victory over the IronPigs.
“It’s incredible, the game of baseball,” Ochinko said. “Two outs, nobody on, down by three runs, you would think the game would be over, but you never know. It’s crazy. Guys work a walk, guys get a hit, guy loses the zone a little bit, all of a sudden a couple knocks and now we’re back in the game. That’s why closing in this situation is so hard. You think you’re up two or three and the game’s over and it never is.”
The IronPigs entered the ninth inning with a 4-1 lead and sent Colton Murray to the mound to close the game.
Munenori Kawasaki grounded out to short. Jonathan Diaz flew out to center.
Ezequiel Carrera came to the plate and suddenly Murray couldn’t find the strike zone. He threw two balls to fall behind and Carrera drew the walk. Andy Burns came to the plate and again Murray struggled with his control to issue a walk.
Then came back-to-back hits – singles to center field by Matt Hague and Chris Colabello to score runs and make it a 4-3 game.
Andy Wilkins worked a full count, drew a walk and loaded the bases.
Ochinko stepped to the plate. He had gone 0 for 4 to that point, but it only took one pitch in his fifth at-bat to change the course of the game.
“I realized, at that point in time the bases are loaded so the guy’s going to try to give me the first-pitch heater. If it was in the zone, I was going to attack it,” Ochinko said. “It’s one of those things where he’s a bullpen guy, a fairly hard thrower so typically you don’t get to his off-speed stuff and try to get into a deeper count so you want to try and hit that first heater that’s in the zone. Luckily he threw me a pitch where I like it and I got a good hit.”
While Ochinko played the role of hero, getting mobbed by his teammates on the field after the winning run crossed the plate, the rally began with a patient and quality at-bat for Carrera.
“The count went to 2-0 on Carrera and I said it’s amazing how many times in baseball the pitcher gets the first two guys out and the very next guy is 2-0,” manager Gary Allenson said. “To score four runs with two outs and nobody on, that doesn’t happen too often but when you do that kinda stuff early, it kinda lets everybody know we’re never out of the game. … That’s why you play nine innings, you never know.”
It was the first walk-off win for the Bisons this season and puts them on a six-game winning streak. They head out on their first extended road trip of the season, playing three games in Pawtucket followed by four at Lehigh Valley.