When the Buffalo Bisons were in the midst of a four-game losing skid on the road, the coaching staff met with players to reinforce one of the frustrating truisms of baseball: A good plan doesn't always give you a good result.
The Bisons stuck with their plan, kept with their individual approaches at the plate, and were able to find their confidence, hitting their way out of their funk. Sunday afternoon, they completed a three-game sweep of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders with a 4-3 decision at Coca-Cola Field.
During that four-game losing skid, the Bisons struggled to score runs, including a stretch where they were shutout for 22 innings.
But now, they've scored 23 runs in their last four games, all wins.
"We talked about it a lot on the road with a couple meetings with guys," Buffalo manager Bobby Meacham said. "We'd tell them they had a good plan. The results don't necessarily reflect a good plan, but you've just got to know what that feels like and stay with it."
Stay with it the Bisons did in Sunday's win. Scranton took an early 1-0 lead when starter Taylor Guerrieri issued a two-out walk to Adam Lind. Then came back-to-back base hits, including an RBI single from Kyle Higashioka, to open the scoring.
The Bisons answered in the fifth on a solo home run from Jason Leblebijian, who cranked his fourth homer of the year to left field. Buffalo took its first lead of the game in the sixth thanks to another round of aggressive base running. Anthony Alford drew a walk, then once on base broke to steal second. The throw from the Scranton catcher went into shallow center, allowing Alford to take third without a throw. Rowdy Tellez drove him in with a single.
That lead didn't last long as the RailRiders tied the game in the seventh on a solo homer from Zach Zehner off Murphy Smith to left field in the seventh.
Then came the eighth inning when the Bisons got their offense moving. Devon Travis extended his hitting streak to eight games with a single. Danny Jansen then drew a two-out walk. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. drove a 1-1 pitch to left field. Meacham sent Travis home, the throw to the plate bounced, and the Bisons had taken a 3-2 lead.
Next up, Reese McGuire's shot to second base was a bullet allowing Jansen to score and giving the Herd a two-run cushion.
They would need that extra run as the RailRiders rallied in the ninth off reliever Justin Shafer, who was making just his third career Triple-A appearance, and first this season.
Scranton started the ninth with a double and single, allowing a run to score from third on a sacrifice fly to center by Ryan McBroom.
But Shafer recovered and got Zehner to ground into a double play to end the game, earning him his first Triple-A save, and again providing a total team effort in the victory.
"I think that's what this offense is capable of – when one guy gets it going, we kind of pass it along," Travis said. "It really only takes one guy to get it going. (Leblebijian) today, that was a huge hit. That was one of the more impressive home runs I've seen in a long time. Guerrieri did a good job today. I liked Shafer there at the end, too. Tough situation – first outing (of the season) in Triple-A, first and third, no outs. That shows a little bit about a pitcher. It was a nice win today."
The latest collection of wins, now four straight, has shown what is impressive about this Bisons roster. Even with turnover, there's depth on the bench and in the bullpen. Back to a .500 overall record (16-16), the Herd may have settled into their groove.
"It feels like they feel confident and comfortable," Meacham said. "And nothing stands out huge. It just feels like, 'OK I've got a feel for what I'm doing now. I'm confident in what I'm trying to accomplish, now let's just go out and execute.' I can't say enough about our pitching and where our catchers have been helping them execute their pitches. It just feels like everyone's confident and has a plan."
The Bisons homestand runs through Thursday as they begin a four-game series with Syracuse, beginning at 6:05 p.m. Monday.