BUFFALO — A sellout crowd of 17,232 was ready to explode as the Herd loaded the bases with two out while down a run in the bottom of the ninth inning, however Giovanni Gallegos needed just one pitch to record the save as the Rochester RailRiders hung on for the 3-2 win over the Buffalo Bisons at Coca-Cola Field Sunday evening.
Domonic Brown got the late attack started as his routine fly ball to right field was dropped by Cesar Puello. Two batters later, Casey Kotchman flared a ball for a single to left and both runners moved up as Tony Sachez drew a walk to fill the bags.
Alexi Casilla jumped on the first pitch he saw from Gallegos and hit it hard but not deep enough, and could only watch as Jose Rosario deposited the ball in his glove to end the contest.
With scheduled starter Drew Hutchison in Toronto, it was up to Buffalo’s bullpen to try snap Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s seven-game winning streak – a daunting task against the International League’s top offense.
Making his first start of the season, Pat Venditte had an elevated pitch count early, needing 39 pitches to get through the first inning, but managed to work his way through two more. The ambidextrous hurler gave up a run in the opening frame and nothing more as he worked out of a few tight situations, scattering four hits and a walk around three strikeouts.
“Venditte had too many pitches in the first. If he could have eliminated that, he probably could have gone out there another inning,” said manager Gary Allenson.
“He wanted to, but that’s not the point right now.”
Ben Rowen took the bump for the Bisons to begin the fourth inning and the RailRiders’ offense greeted him with three straight singles to take a 2-1 lead. Donovan Solano then ripped a double into the right-field corner to plate another run.
The submariner then settled in, retiring eight of the next nine batters before turning the ball over to Bobby Korecky who hurled a 1-2-3 seventh in his first appearance since May 17th.
Danny Barnes and Ryan Tepera each fired a scoreless inning to keep the Herd within one run.
Buffalo scored in the second and the fifth, both runs coming on a couple of unorthodox plays.
Jesus Montero started the second frame with a single to right and advanced 90 feet on Brown’s infield hit. Montero was then nearly caught when shortstop Jonathan Diaz took the pickoff throw at second, but instead of retreating to the bag, the designated hitter put his head down and charged for third.
By blocking the base path, Montero forced a wide throw and was able to scamper home as he saw the ball trickle away.
“You don’t have to be fast to be a good base-runner, you just have to stay within your limitations and your ability. He had a good reaction on it and got in the way of the throw and got something going when the offense wasn’t doing anything,” noted Allenson.
Learning from experience, Montero knew what he had to do to get his team on the board.
“That play has already happened to me two times,” said the big Venezuelan.
“When that happens, I try to go to third base because I know I’m trying be hit, that or I’m going to be out. When I saw the ball go toward left field, I went home. It was so funny.”
The Herd scored its other run on a passed-ball strikeout to Darrell Ceciliani as Casey Kotchman was able to make it home, bringing the Bisons to within one run.
Montero picked up another hit later to give him 95 on the season, putting him one back of Indianapolis’ Josh Bell for the I.L. lead.
Now credited with his first stolen base of the year as well as a few unfamiliar plays under his belt this season, the jovial slugger still feels like he’s not finished trying to new ways to generate offense.
“Maybe I’ll bunt.”
The Herd heads back out on the road, beginning with two games in Rochester on Monday.
Prior to Sunday’s game, the Bisons activated reliever Bo Schultz who was optioned back from Toronto on Saturday…In a corresponding move, Roberto Hernandez was granted his request to be released. The righty was 4-4 with a 4.42 ERA in 13 starts for the Herd…Ben Rowen allowed a run to score for the first time since May 8, bringing his scoreless streak to an end after 23.1 innings…Bobby Korecky has appeared in seven BPO Independence Eve games. Three came while a member of the Red Wings from 2006 to 2008, the other four have all come in the last four seasons as a Bison.