Buffalo's record is slipping, and so are its bats. Literally.
In the past two days, bats have flown out of Bison hands four times. Once on Monday during a doubleheader, three more times Tuesday night. Jake Elmore has been the culprit three times, and it's not just a coincidence that lumber is taking flight at Coca-Cola Field.
Elmore, the Buffalo outfielder who's played for five different MLB teams over the last five years, has always used a pine-tar stick to coat the handle of his bat. That way, his hands stick "like glue" to the bat, in no danger of going astray. But with temperatures dipping into the low 60s in Buffalo recently during night games, the pine tar's effectiveness has decreased.
"I think kind of the weather, you're so used to playing in hot climates, really everywhere you go," Elmore said. "I have noticed with the temperatures kind of down, even like low 60s, it's not as sticky. And so I'm putting more and more and more on and it's not really getting any stickier."
The result, before Elmore made an adjustment, was two stray bats soaring into the netting behind home plate over the last two days. As bats have taken flight, the Herd has done the opposite. Buffalo has dropped 13 of its last 14 games, its last eight losses coming by a combined 10 runs. In each of the Bisons' three games upon returning home, the hosts have put two runners on in the last inning with one or no outs, trailing by one or two runs, yet failed to drive in even one.
On Tuesday, two hit batsmen to start the bottom of the ninth gave Buffalo another fighting chance. But three consecutive strikeouts sent Bobby Meacham's team to a 3-2 loss at the hands of Rochester, dropping the Bisons to 35-43 overall. Like Elmore's hands, Buffalo is losing its grasp - on opportunities to climb the standings. Both, however, know there's a tangible way to fix the problem.
We'll start with the one that's more simple to rectify.
After two thrown bats, and before his third, Elmore made a change.
"Finally I came in and got lizard skin after I threw it the second time," Elmore said. "And I put like a wrap on it, so it's a really sticky wrap."
The third time Elmore's bat took off, it headed toward the opening in Rochester's dugout. Manager Mike Quade deftly avoided contact, ducking down the steps away from harm. Elmore, who clearly felt bad, turned to the away bench in apology.
"This has never been an issue," Elmore said. "It's kind of an anomaly, I think. I've played for a long time and I've never thrown the bat this much. I was apologizing to their dugout, like they're ducking out of the way and stuff."
In the grand scheme, flying bats aren't nearly as consequential as Buffalo's inability to drive in runners in scoring position during close games. Pitching has been solid the last two days and for the majority of the last two weeks, but the bats have been far less reliable.
Meacham, lighthearted, likes to kid about the "issue" of flying bats that isn't actually plaguing his team.
"I got something I might have to give 'em," the manager said, laughing. "My son's got something he uses in college, so maybe I can pass that along and they'll try it."
But there are issues that actually require more to fix, whether that be fortuitous rolls or mechanical adjustments, if Buffalo wants to halt its downfall.