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Herd learning to win the close ones

One-run games had been the bane of the Buffalo Bisons’ existence.

They entered their homestand just 10-22 in games decided by a single run. And while baseball players love to talk about the length of a season and looking ahead, the Herd had frittered away plenty of opportunities to pick up wins.

But Matt Hague was quick to point out that those one-run losses didn’t necessarily elicit frustration. They could be taken as a positive sign that the Bisons were competitive.

And this homestand, the Herd has finally started to find themselves on the winning side of those games.

On Saturday the Bisons earned their second straight 5-4 win over the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders at Coca-Cola Field.

“I don’t think anything’s different,” Hague said of the Bisons’ two straight one-run wins. “As a team I think we’re just battling. We know, with a little more confidence lately, we’re never out of a game. I think as long as we keep it close, we know we can come back.

“We’re aware it’s a long season. It’s a good sign we’re in games I think we have awareness of as long as we’re in games, we can keep competing. Eventually we’ll give ourselves a better chance so I think we’re just kinda getting things going right now.”

Battling was the key in the last two wins. The Herd needed a three-run ninth inning, including a walk-off two-run homer by Melky Mesa, for Friday’s 5-4 win.

On Saturday, the Herd let a 4-0 lead slip away. With the game tied and one out in the seventh, Andy Burns singled and took second on a passed ball. That set up Hague, the best hitter in the International League, who was able to drive in the run.

Getting runners on base and into scoring position hasn’t been an issue for the Bisons. It’s been producing runs in those situations. And the difference has been hitters having a better plan at the plate.

“We’ve had our opportunities. We just haven’t cashed in,” manager Gary Allenson said. “You’ve got to know how a guy works when he’s in trouble. You’ve gotta go up there and anticipate that stuff. You can’t go up there blind looking for a pitch you’re not going to get.”

The Bisons have 54 games left and at 45-45 they are still very much in the IL North Division race, sitting four games behind Rochester.

The divisional race has been a growing conversation topic in the clubhouse.

“When you start talking like that as a unit, you get a little more confidence and have some fun doing it,” Hague said. “We believe in ourselves. We have a good team and I think that if you get a bunch of guys in the locker room starting to talk that way, you can see it on the field.”