By: Mike Rose
ROCHESTER, N.Y.– After racking up 13 hits in a losing effort yesterday, the Buffalo Bisons flexed their offensive muscle Friday night. Buffalo racked up 20 hits en route to a 19-3 victory over the Rochester Red Wings. With the Rochester pitching staff still shorthanded due to roster moves from the Washington Nationals, injuries, and the aftermath of Wednesday's 12-inning marathon matchup the Bisons' bats took full advantage for an explosive effort.
"Credit to Matt Hague (Bisons hitting coach) he got our hitters together after the first game because we got out of our approach and what we do well," Bisons Manager Casey Candaele said. "He talked to them and said, 'Hey let's get back to what we do really well,' which is get pitches to hit and grind out at-bats and our guys responded really well. Tonight it started first thing and built from there and we ended up throwing together a really good offensive game here."
The 'really good offensive game' the Bisons threw together was good for their second-highest scoring game of the season just behind a 21-9 victory over Gwinett on April 30. All nine Bisons starters recorded a hit and all 10 batters who made an appearance scored a run in the offensive onslaught.
The scoring started in the first when the Bisons racked up three runs off Red Wings starter Luis Cessa, who was making his Red Wings debut after signing a minor league deal on Thursday. The second inning saw much of the same as the Bisons tacked on three more on a home run from Rafael Lantigua.
The Red Wings showed brief signs of life in the bottom half of the second when Franmil Reyes celebrated his birthday with a mammoth home run to left field. The 457-foot shot was the longest by a Red Wing this season.
"I have hit it way further than that," Reyes said. So it doesn't surprise me at all. When I feel good at the plate every time I hit the ball on the barrel and it goes out of the park it goes just like that one."
Cessa's nightmare debut ended after two but the Bisons' offense kept coming. Tyler Beck followed out of the Rochester bullpen to make his debut for Rochester and was greeted much like Cessa.
Buffalo tacked on two runs each in the third and fourth innings, including a two-run homer from LJ Talley to balloon the lead out to 10-1.
The game settled a bit from there before Reyes struck again in the sixth. This time a soft single drove in Jake Alu to give Rochester their second run of the game.
The Bisons' offense quickly answered once again with two more runs in the seventh before Jacob Nottingham went deep for the Red Wings in the bottom half of the inning. As the game turned to the ninth innings the theatrics began.
The 6'5 designated hitter Reyes strode onto the mound to try and mercifully bring the game to a close. Reyes, who pitched a scoreless inning for the Chicago Cubs during the 2022 season, was not greeted with birthday cheers from the Bisons. Buffalo tacked on seven more runs in the ninth, including a grand slam from Luis De Los Santos.
"Just wanted to have fun," Reyes said. "I'm just trying to help the team because I know our guys in the bullpen needed a little break."
Red Wings Manager Matthew LeCroy said Reyes made his case to the staff to pitch if needed.
"He went to Chavy (Red Wings pitching coach Rafael Chaves) and said 'Ya know I pitched before in the big leagues' and so we went and looked at the video of when he pitched. He threw 87-88, I told him he probably threw too hard. I saw 87 on the first pitch and went 'Oh no he might be trouble,' LeCroy said.
Red Wings catcher Jacob Nottingham got the next crack on the mound and managed to get through the inning without any further damage.
Despite entering play this week with the fewest home runs in the International League (IL) and as one of the lowest-scoring offenses (sixth fewest runs in the IL following Friday's win) the Bisons posted 33 hits in a two-day stretch against Rochester. Utility man LJ Talley of the Bisons said offensive adjustments have been a focus for the team as they began the second half of the season.
"Coming into the second half that's one of your goals is to just hit the ball hard and control what you can control and not try to get too big. Just sticking with our plan and I think tonight was a good example of that," Talley said.
With the victory Buffalo (39-45) moves to 5-4 in the second half while Rochester (39-44) falls to 5-5. The teams will do battle once again Saturday in the penultimate game before the All-Star break. Wily Peralta (2-6, 6.58) will get the start for Rochester while Paxton Schultz (1-2, 2.74) is projected to get the nod for Buffalo. First pitch at Innovative Field is scheduled for 6:05 pm.