BUFFALO- The final home game of the season did not go the Bisons' way on Thursday, with the Herd falling to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders 6-1. Buffalo is swept in the three-game set, and has now lost nine straight ballgames against the RailRiders this season.
13,857 turned out for Fan Appreciation Night at Coca-Cola Field, capping off the 29th season at the downtown ballpark.
The first five batters in the RailRiders' lineup all drove in runs, with six hitters working base on balls. Leadoff hitter Mason Williams went 3-4 in the contest.
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre took a 4-0 lead in the top of the second, with nine men coming to the plate against Bisons' starter Jason Berken. Chris Parmalee mashed his 10th home run of the year into the right field Bully Hill Party Deck, while RBI singles by Cito Culver, Mason Williams and Cesar Puello pushed Berken's pitch count to 38 by the end of the inning.
Berken avoided trouble in the fifth, stranding the bases loaded by striking out Culver looking, and inducing an Eddy Rodriguez ground out. He left after 5.1 innings, allowing eight hits and four earned runs, walking three and striking out four.
"You know what, Berken had one bad inning," Bisons' manager Gary Allenson said of his starter. "One rough inning, four runs, but he did a nice job getting us almost to the sixth."
With Phil Coke starting for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the Herd got on the board in the bottom of the third, as team-MVP Jesus Montero drove in newly-minted Bison Quintin Berry with a single.
The Blue Jays signed outfielder Berry to a minor league contract on Thursday. The speedy 31-year old batted leadoff and patrolled centerfield for the Herd, after 100 games with Salt Lake of the Pacific Coast League. Twice in the game, Berry made diving efforts on fly balls in the outfield, but came up short on both occasions. At the plate, he went hitless in four at bats, but walked and scored a run in his Buffalo debut.
With two runners on and two outs in the bottom of the fourth, Darrell Ceciliani flew out against Coke, ending a possible rally for the Herd. More of the same occurred in the fifth, with Andy Burns popping up with two runners on to end the frame.
"You have to take advantage of opportunities when there's guys in scoring position, and for the most part, we haven't done a very good job of that," Allenson said of his ballclub, which scored just three runs in the three-game series against the RailRiders.
Coke pitched 6.0 innings of one-run ball, fanning six Bisons, and improving to 5-3 in 2016. Tyler Webb hurled two hitless and scoreless innings, and Johnny Barbato capped off the Bisons' loss, striking out Darrell Ceciliani with a curveball down out of the zone.
Bo Schultz relieved Berken in the sixth, yielding a RBI-single to Rob Refsnyder in the top of the eighth, and Schultz left in the eighth with runners on the corners. Dustin Antolin allowed an inherited run, but stranded two runners on in the top of the ninth, fanning Cesar Puello.
Matt Dominguez and Jesus Montero combined for five of the Bisons' seven hits, with Montero going 3-4.
Prior to the game, Jesus Montero was named as the Bisons' 2016 Stan Barron Most Valuable Player. The Warren Spahn Most Valuable Pitcher award went to Dustin Antolin, while the Jimmy Griffin Hometown Hero Award was handed out to Scott Diamond. Casey Lawrence was honored with the Judge Michael Dillion Comeback Player of the Year, Chad Girodo earned the Frank J. "Fremo" Vallone Community Service Award, and last but not least, Bisons' fan Andy Lange was named the Joe Byron Fan of the Year.
With the RailRiders beating the Bisons, and the Rochester Red Wings defeating the Lehigh Valley IronPigs on Thursday, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre clinches the IL North Division crown.
Buffalo now heads on the road for the final four games of the 2016. Friday will see game one of a two game series in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, with first pitch set for 7:05 p.m. from PNC Field.
Darrell Ceciliani ends his hitting and on-base streaks at 12 and 18 games, respectively… The Bisons win exactly 34 games at home for the third time in the last five seasons. 562,755 fans enjoyed baseball at Coca-Cola Field this season, the most since 2010.