It took until the eighth inning with two outs before it finally happened – a hit for the Buffalo Bisons.
Jason Leblebijian singled to left to end the shutout bid by the Rochester Red Wings pitching staff. But still, a record was set. It was the longest an opponent has taken a no-hit bid in 30 seasons at Coca-Cola Field.
The Red Wings capitalized on an impressive performance from starter Aaron Slegers for a 5-0 win over the Herd Tuesday afternoon.
Buffalo managed just two hits, both in the eighth, after Slegers set the tone in his Triple-A debut. The 24-year-old threw six scoreless innings giving up three walks with seven strike outs to earn his first win.
"The first inning was a little shaky," said Slegers, who opened his start by issuing a walk. "Nerves at the first start and first one in Triple-A. Then the second inning I seemed to settle down and me and," Rochester catcher "Mitch Garver were working really well together. He's caught me every year of pro ball. We've kind of gone up the levels together. There's a certain level of comfort throwing to Mitch. We talked about our game plan in the dugout between innings and it seemed to work."
The Bisons could not find a groove against the 6-foot-10 Slegers. They did get on base and had a runner in scoring position in the fourth when Jake Elmore drew a lead-off walk, stole second, then went to third on a fly to center from Dwight Smith Jr. But Slegers got Rowdy Tellez out with a foul pop up on the third-base side and then struck out Juan Graterol to end the inning.
Bisons manager Bobby Meacham couldn't put a finger on why his hitters were struggling against Slegers, asking hitting coach Devon White and coach Aaron Matthews for their thoughts.
"I wasn't sure. I kept asking Devo and Aaron, 'What are you seeing?' We just couldn't figure a way to get to him," Meacham said. "I don't get it. He was good, but not a big difference from the other guys. Just got to tip your hat to the job he did but I'm not sure what the difference was."
For Slegers, the difference came in working a familiar pitch in new ways before going to his high fastball.
"I was working on a new slider grip in spring training and that seemed to work well today," Slegers said. "Kept them off balance. Threw it for some strikeouts and for some early-count strikes as well. And when I paired that up with a high fastball it seemed to work well for me today."
Breaking up the no-hitter: Leblebijian got a two-out hit in the eighth with Ian Parmley following that up with a bunt single off Rochester reliever Alan Busenitz. For the game, the Herd went 2 for 27 in a reverse of the "hitting is contagious" cliche.
"Guys start to try to do too much and think, 'Hey nobody's got a hit yet so I want to be the one,'" Meacham said. "Hitting is contagious and when you don't get a hit it's like a little bit of a weight on your shoulders. It kind of built up on us and I think guys started pressing a little bit but that's the beautiful thing about baseball. We've got tomorrow."
For the record books: It was the longest an opponent has held a no-hitter against the Bisons in the downtown ballpark. The effort surpassed the 7 1/3 no-hit innings pitched by Tim Mauser with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on May 28, 1991. Keith Miller had a single to break it up.
First loss: The loss ends the Bisons season-opening win streak at four games. It is the club's best start since 2014 when the Herd also went 4-0.
Rochester offense: It took until the sixth inning for a run to cross the plate. With one out Kennys Vargas put the Red Wings ahead, 1-0, with a solo home run to right field off Bisons' reliever John Stilson. The Red Wings made it 2-0 in the seventh with back-to-back doubles from Niko Goodrum and J.B. Shuck. Goodrum then had a two-run double in the eighth as Rochester grew its lead to 4-0.
Tommy Field added a solo home run to lead off the ninth after striking out in his first four at-bats.
Solid Bisons starting pitching: Brett Oberholtzer gave a solid start through four innings, giving up three hits with two walks and seven strikeouts. "He developed a little soreness in his finger and we didn't want it to become a blister," Meacham said. "That's why we took him out but he threw the ball great. He pitched OK in spring training, but he pitched really good today. It was a shot in the arm for us to see him go out there and pitch as well as he did."
Delayed start: Showers passed through downtown Buffalo late Tuesday, prompting the tarp to come out. The grounds crew got the field ready quickly and the game started at 1:18 – only 13 minutes late.
Counting the house: Official paid attendance was 4,499 although most stayed home with the damp weather.
The homestand: The teams play again on Wednesday (1:05 p.m.) with righty Mike Bolsinger scheduled to start for the Herd against lefty David Hurlbut and finish the homestand on Thursday (1:05 p.m.) with righty Jarrett Grube (1-0, 3.60) scheduled to start for the Bisons against righty Jose Berrios (1-0, 0.00).