At the start of the third inning Thursday, Scott Diamond called the grounds crew to the mound.
The Buffalo Bisons’ starting pitcher needed some repairs after he dug himself a bit of a hole off the rubber.
With that fixed, the lefty got to work, not only helping the Herd to a 2-1 win over the Rochester Red Wings at Coca-Cola Field, but saving the club’s already overused bullpen in the process.
Although he kept the game scoreless, Diamond gave up three of his five hits in the first two innings before getting his self-created issue with the dirt corrected.
“Off my back foot, off my push foot I was just kind of digging a big hole and it was kind of throwing my balance off a little bit,” Diamond said. “They came out and fixed it for me and we were able to cruise from there.”
Diamond led off the third with a pair of strikeouts and pitched scoreless ball until the sixth when an RBI double from Buck Britton put the game’s first run on the board.
The Bisons responded in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single from Andy Burns and the pitchers’ duel between Diamond and Rochester’s Pat Dean continued.
Diamond, who played in the Minnesota Twins’ organization from 2011-13, is familiar with Dean and that familiarity created some competitive spark.
“I know Pat really well from my time in the Twins’ organization,” said Diamond, who spent 2015 with Durham and signed as a free agent with the Blue Jays in the offseason. “We’ve kind of got a little rivalry. We try to push each other a little bit and he threw a hell of a game today. We’re lucky with getting a win against such a good pitcher.”
While Dean took the loss, giving up one earned run on five hits in eight innings, Diamond picked up his second win of the season for the Herd.
“Fastball command really helped out, especially inside today,” Diamond said. “I was able to keep them off their toes until I was able to get my changeup underway and my curveball located a little better. The fastball command was really what helped me stay in that game for as long as I did.”
He stayed in the game for seven innings. Ryan Tepera struck out the side in the eighth and David Aardsma picked up his third save by pitching the ninth.
Diamond’s long outing was much needed by the Bisons. The Herd has played all its scheduled games the first week of the season, but that included two doubleheaders and a 13-inning game all within the first seven games.
With two pitchers already gone from the Opening Day roster – starter Scott Copeland went to Korea and reliever Pat Venitte was recalled by the Blue Jays – the Bisons needed an opportunity to keep their arms fresh.
“That’s what you look for right there,” manager Gary Allenson said of Diamond’s outing. “We’ve been in two situations the first week where I was asking a position player if they could pitch. Diamond was the key to the game.
“He throws strikes. … I think Diamond’s key is his changeup. He’s got such a good changeup there that it adds 5 feet on his fastball. The velocity on the board is irrelevant there when you can throw those pitches for strikes.”