There were two outs in the third inning and Jon Berti was on first base, thanks to a fielder’s choice and a failed turn of a double play.
The Buffalo Bisons were already trailing the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, 3-0, so Berti thought this would be a good time to use his best tool – his speed.
Berti stole second while Bisons’ leadoff man Alexi Casilla was at the plate. That set up Casilla for the RBI single, as he drove in Berti to put the Bisons on the board.
It wasn’t enough as the Herd’s late rally fell short in a 5-2 loss to Scranton at Coca-Cola Field on Tuesday night.
But it was emblematic of Berti’s game.
The 26-year-old is in his second Triple-A stint, promoted from Double-A New Hampshire last week.
Last year he made his Triple-A debut with the Herd in late July, driving in 14 runs with four stolen bases and a .228 batting average in 40 games.
This year he started the season with the Fisher Cats, where he hit .309 and drove in eight runs in 17 games. At the time of his promotion he led the Eastern League with 10 stolen bases.
Manufacturing runs. That’s what Berti can do.
“I definitely want to be on the aggressive side,” Berti said. “That’s kind of my game and what I need to do to progress and help this team win but at the same time it’s about being smart about it. I think as I’ve gotten older and playing more, I’ve kind of realized the times that it’s good to push it and the times to maybe lay back and let our hitters do their thing.”
“He’s an effort guy,” Bisons manager Gary Allenson said. “Obviously he runs good. Everybody can see that. But sometimes guys that run good don’t always give you that effort all the time and he’s always making things happen. First off, weakest part of major league play is base running; not everyone hustles all the time. When you see a guy that does it like he does there, it stands out. He takes advantage of his best tool there.
“He doesn’t have many at-bats,” Allenson said. “He’s not hitting much right now but he’s hit some line-drive outs. He’s had about three of them to right field that hopefully they start falling for him.”
The plate production has been slow in catching up with the move to Triple-A. Berti is hitting just .063, going 1 for 16 in his six outings since the promotion. But Berti knows those numbers will improve.
“I’m just trying to get comfortable and figure it out a little bit,” Berti said. “Just trying to have good at-bats and get good pitches to hit. … Any time you get a good pitch to hit and you can drive it somewhere, that’s really all you can do at that point and if it’s right at a guy like I’ve had over the last few days, then it is what it is and you carry that confidence into the next day.”
Berti isn’t alone in trying to find a groove at the plate. The Bisons are batting just .231 as a team.
He is, however, perhaps the best speed on the bases for the Herd with Dalton Pompey missing his fifth straight game with a heel injury.
“He’s still day to day,” Allenson said of Pompey. “Foot feels better but he’s still on a day-to-day basis. He took batting practice for the first time,” Tuesday “in about five or six days so hopefully he’s a couple days away.”