Andy Burns did what he always does. He came to the park, got in his early work and took batting practice.
He wasn’t mucking around with much in the batter’s box. For him, it was all about timing, something that can be elusive for hitters especially when their at-bats are diminished through call-ups and demotions.
But Burns believed in staying with the process. It paid off for him and the Buffalo Bisons on Friday night. His two-run home run in the seventh helped the Herd break a nine-game losing streak with a 3-1 win over the Syracuse Chiefs at Coca-Cola Field.
“Just it’s been one of those stretches and it’s not easy, it’s not fun,” Burns said about the losing streak. “All you can do is show up to the ballpark and try to get better and fix some of the issues we’ve been having.
“I think you just try to stay in your routines and not try to do anything extra or more. I think when you try to do too much is when you end up doing less. I think almost just trying to get back to the basics and do less would help.”
In his first two at-bats, Burns hit the ball hard, but with nothing to show for it. In the first he sent a shot to left field and in the fourth he grounded into a double play.
But it wasn’t the failures he took into that third at-bat. It was the feeling of making good contact, of getting good swings, that gave him a bit of confidence as he stepped into the box in the seventh with one out and Casey Kotchman on first.
“Any time you barrel the ball, it feels good and you know that the hits are going to come so you just keep doing what you’ve been doing,” Burns said. “I got a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it and luckily it got out.”
The home run broke a string of 20 straight solo homers by the Bisons. Burns’ two-run shot was the first home run with runners on base for the Herd since David Adams had a two-run shot June 25 against Indianapolis.
Friday wasn’t the performance of an offensive juggernaut. The team still went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position.
“Yeah, two homers,” manager Gary Allenson said about Friday’s offense. “Broke our solo homer streak. Hadn’t hit a homer with someone on base in a month of Sundays. But we’ll take that. Any way we can get them. We weren’t good with guys in scoring position but we won the game so I overlook that.
“It’s tough enough to hit as it is and you don’t want to put too much pressure on guys and let them work their way out of it. Everybody concentrates in the batter’s box. Everybody. Not everybody does when they’re playing defense sometimes or running the bases, but everybody wants to get a hit. You’ve just got to be as patient as you can with it and hope we get out of it and when we get out of it, we get hot.”
For Burns, who is hitting .235 with the Bisons, offensive consistency has been a challenge.
He has been promoted to Toronto three times but has not started a game and has only six at-bats over those stints. That means when he returns to the Bisons, he’s usually been out of game action for a few days. Hitting is all about timing and repetition – two things which come back together slower than most players would like.
“There’s no comparison to being out and facing a guy who’s throwing 95,” Burns said. “There’s really no way to replicate that. Until you get that timing back, you’re just trying to fight for it, fight to get that timing back.”
The key to hitting for Burns is “just getting started on time. I know that’s pretty vague and there’s not a lot of substance to that but that’s really all it is,” he said. “You’re just trying to create that rhythm with the pitcher and that’s the tough part, trying to be on-time for 95 but still recognize a slider and put a pretty good swing on that. That’s all stuff that if you go a fair amount of time without seeing it takes a couple of days to get back.”