Bisons silence Wings
By: Mike Rose
BUFFALO, N.Y.– The Buffalo Bisons celebrated hockey night Saturday and their pitching staff nearly went for a shutout. Despite it being a bullpen day, they shut down the Rochester Red Wings en route to a 7-1 victory.
"They did a great job. (Hayden) Juenger started us off and he went after hitters and attacked them. When he's in the zone throwing the ball over the plate he's really tough," Bisons Manager Casey Candaele said.
Bisons shortstop Ernie Clement has similar praise for Juenger and his pitching staff.
"Hayden did an unbelievable job starting the game off. He really set the tone and got ahead of batters all day. They had a really tough time with his stuff. When he's getting ahead of guys he's really tough to hit and it's been cool to watch him work. His couple of outings have been really, really good," Clement said.
As they have much of the series Buffalo got out to an early lead. Rafael Lantigua doubled to lead off the night followed by an RBI double from Ernie Clement. Addison Barger drilled an RBI single to score Clement and make it a 2-0 lead after one.
From there a pitching duel broke out. Jueneger worked through the first three for Buffalo while Jackson Rutledge settled in on the other side after allowing the two early runs. Rutledge kept Rochester in the game, a welcome sight for manager Matthew LeCroy.
"That first inning I was thinking 'that pitch count is going up,' but he never backed off and he made a pitch to get out of it. I thought he did a nice job of mixing in some better sliders, some change ups and his fastball seemed to have a little bit more life on it and was better located. I was really encouraged by what he did, and really happy with his effort and the way he competed," LeCroy said.
The effort was Rutledge's third time in his last four starts where he pitched at least five innings well allowing two runs or fewer.
"I think just growing as a player in general, learning how these hitters think and learning how to adjust to that has been a big help. I've made a couple of changes with Chavy that have really helped my fastball, especially last time out. Today I really didn't have my best stuff and got hit a little bit in the first inning which is never fun but to be able to come out and put four zeroes up in a row was important for our team and giving us a chance to win," Rutledge said.
Despite Rutledge's efforts, the Bisons' bullpen continued to handle Rochester's bats. Junior Fernandez followed Juenger first and pitched two scoreless frames. Paul Fry, Zach Pop, and Matt Wisler combined to finish off the final four innings allowing one hit and one unearned run to Rochester. In the seventh, Buffalo finally blew the game open.
Trevor Schwecke led off with a double before Rafael Lantigua drilled a two-run homer. Later in the frame, Orlevis Martinez hit a sac fly and Tanner Morris drilled an RBI single to make it a 6-0 game that felt out of reach.
Both teams would trade runs off errors in the eighth before Buffalo finished off its third consecutive victory. Rochester would ultimately finish with just four hits overall on the night while Buffalo pounded out 10.
"We had a chance to score early and didn't get it done. We've seen all these guys so you really can't use that anymore as an excuse. We just have to be better, we have to lock in more, be more focused and make them work. Tomorrow is a big game to try and salvage the series we need to win tomorrow," LeCroy said.
Buffalo also paid tribute to legendary Sabres broadcaster Rick Jeanneret throughout the game Saturday night, playing some of his best calls on the scoreboard in center field between innings as well as spray painting 'RJ' into the field behind home plate. Jeanneret passed away late Thursday evening after battling multi-organ failure. Clement, who grew up in Rochester as a Sabres fan, gestured with his bat towards the initials before his first at-bat of the night.
"He's a legend in the Western New York Community. I saw the initials behind home plate and just wanted to do a little something to pay my respects because I'm a big Sabres fan. I just really enjoyed listening to him call Sabres games, I used to listen to him on the radio all the time. I heard the news the other day and it hits home. For people who grew up in this area, he's been one of those staples in our community," Clement said.
The two teams will square off for the final time this season Sunday afternoon. Rochester will look for the win they desperately need in the series finale sending Tommy Romero (4-4, 5.64) to the mound to start. Meanwhile, for Buffalo, it will be another bullpen game that is expected to be opened by Andrew Bash (2-1, 2.65). The first pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. at Sahlen Field.