It's not often the Buffalo Bisons' hitters see a knuckleball.
But they saw a bevy of them from Pawtucket Red Sox starter Steven Wright Sunday afternoon, and he shut them down with the inimitable pitch. Buffalo managed eight hits, only five off Webster in eight innings, in a 5-3 loss to the PawSox at McCoy Stadium, giving Pawtucket, which sits atop the International League North Division, a 3-1 series win. It also matched the Bisons taking three of four from them in April at Coca-Cola Field.
The loss was the ultimate game of the Herd's eight-game road trip, finishing the stint at 3-5, with a four-game series split with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders coming earlier in the week.
Buffalo was unable to solve the knuckleballer, as Wright gave his best to try and equal the Bisons' one-hitter Saturday night. Wright threw 69 of his 97 pitches for strikes over eight innings and fanned seven while allowing one run.
The right-hander retired 13 consecutive Bisons at one point, a stretch that ended with a Moises Sierra infield single in the hole at short to lead off the eighth. Sierra eventually came around to score and break the shutout on a Ricardo Nanita lined single into center.
Down 5-1 in the ninth, and Chris Martin taking over for Wright, the Bisons nearly staged a comeback. Mauro Gomez blasted his 18th homer of the season, a two-run shot to left, to cut into the lead.
Jim Negrych followed with the Herd's third hit of the inning, a one-out single, to bring the tying run to the plate in Sierra. He grounded into a 6-4-3 twin-killing to end the rally and game, though.
Gomez's home run only added to a recent tear he is on. The IL's home run leader has 11 dingers and 22 RBIs in 19 games since May 26, and 15 of his long balls have come away from Coca-Cola Field.
Todd Redmond was scheduled to start for Buffalo, but he was a late scratch, and Chad Jenkins took the mound. His start wasn't long-lived, however. Jenkins was pulled after three innings, allowing all five earned runs on six hits and a walk while punching out three in taking the loss to fall to 0-3.
It was Alex Hassan who once again paced the Red Sox' attack. He has been a thorn in Buffalo's side all series, with a walk-off hit in Game One of Friday's doubleheader and a home run to ruin the Bisons no-hit bid in the eighth inning Saturday. For an encore Sunday, he initiated the scoring with a two-out, two-run double in the first.
Claudio Vargas and Joel Carreno provided solid relief of Jenkins. They combined for five innings - Vargas three, Carreno two - and allowed no runs on four hits, and each fanned a batter.
A familiar face returned to the Biosns' dugout Sunday. Andy LaRoche, who was called up to the Toronto Blue Jays June 7, was designated for assignment back to Buffalo prior to the game. Getting his first action in a Bisons uniform since June 5, LaRoche finished 1 for 3.
BISONS NOTES: The Bisons will head back to Coca-Cola Field for eight games beginning Monday, when they play the first of four against the Gwinnett Braves. A four-game series that starts Friday is set with the IL South-leading Durham Bulls to close the homestand…LaRoche played in one game for Toronto during his stint there, going hitless in four at-bats…Eugenio Velez has been placed on the temporary inactive list…Luis Jimenez, who is tied for second in the IL with 54 RBIs, had the day off…Sierra has 40 runs, behind only Jimenez for most on the squad…Mike McCoy went 1 for 4 to end the four-game set 5 for 12.