The Bisons came back down to Earth after their best road trip of the season, suffering a 12-3 defeat at the hands of Durham on Monday night at Coca-Cola Field. The Bulls got on the board early, scoring five runs in the first to give themselves a cushion they didn't come close to relinquishing.
Buffalo (43-59) managed seven hits but also committed two errors. Durham (62-39) tattooed Bisons pitching to the tune of 13 hits, showing why it owned an 11.5-game advantage atop the International League South coming into the game and why Buffalo continues to be a middling fifth-place team in its division.
Here are a couple quick takeaways from the game.
Early blues: Last time the Bisons were home, they allowed a run in each of the first three innings to Scranton. Buffalo couldn't overcome the early deficit, dropping its last game before the ensuing seven-game road trip, 5-0. Upon returning home Monday against Durham, the Bisons fell into an early hole again, this time before they could even step to the plate. The Bulls scored five runs in the top of the first, their first five runners each getting on base and eventually scoring. Again, it was too deep a deficit for the hosts to crawl out of.
"It's not that tough after you're starting to win some games like we did on the road," Bisons manager Bobby Meacham said of his team rebounding from early deficits. "It's just a matter of regaining that command of your fastball. We never really did a good job of doing that."
Berti finding his groove: Bisons second baseman Jon Berti has now hit safely in seven of his last nine games after a third-inning single that drove in Buffalo's first two runs of the game and an infield single in the eighth. His average still sits at a lowly .192, but Berti helped the Bisons get on the board after being retired in order through the first two innings and showed signs of life late even when his team didn't.
On the mound: Buffalo's arms were subpar Monday, allowing double-digit runs for the first time since an 11-0 loss on June 8 at Pawtucket. Starter Murphy Smith didn't record an out until the sixth batter and triggered Bisons bullpen activity with only one out in the first inning. In his three innings on the hill, Smith allowed seven runs on eight hits. Wil Browning wasn't much better in relief, surrendering a pair of runs and walking three in three innings of work.
Buffalo's third pitcher, Andrew Case, threw two innings and allowed three runs on three hits, mixing in a wild pitch and hit batsman to cap off another lackluster stint on the hill for the home team. Taylor Cole was the fourth Bisons pitcher on the night and threw a perfect top of the ninth.
"First of all, Taylor Cole was outstanding at the end. It was fun to watch," Meacham said. "I know we missed a ton of spots and it's a good hitting team. When you're missing spots with your fastball, especially an aggressive team like that is gonna get you in some trouble."
Smith Jr. stays hot: Dwight Smith Jr. recorded six hits combined in three games against Louisville to close the road trip. He added another two Monday night in the form of a third-inning single and a sixth-inning double. Smith scored the Bisons third run and raised his average to .289 after his two-hit performance.
Up next: Game 2 of this four-game set gets going at 7:05 Tuesday night. Luis Santos (2-5, 3.54 ERA) throws for Buffalo and Austin Pruitt (0-1, 2.55) tosses for the Bulls.