(bisons.com) - They wouldn't give in. Not in a game of this magnitude, against one of the hottest teams in the International League.
The Rochester Red Wings have been near-automatic at holding leads in the middle and late stages of games lately. In Fact, since June 15, they were 30-0 when leading after five innings heading into the opener of a crucial three-game series with the Buffalo Bisons on Wednesday night. But those were just numbers to the herd.
Buffalo came back from a two-run deficit in the sixth inning and then added some insurance to defeat the Rochester Red Wings, 8-3, before 7,778 at Coca-Cola Field Wednesday. The win closes the Herd to within 2 ½ games of the International League North-leading Red Wings and they remain a half-game behind Pawtucket, which currently holds the lone wild-card spot.
Clint Robinson's two-run homer run to right in the sixth was not only his first of the season, but it also tied things at three. An inning later, Sean Ochinko followed Ricardo Nanita's leadoff double with one of his own to grant Buffalo its first lead of the night at 4-3. In the eighth, the runs didn't stop. Moises Sierra provided the insurance, rocketing a three-run home run over the left-field wall before Ochinko added another RBI, on a single.
Defeating a Rochester team that is now 27-13 in its last 40 wasn't foreseen by manager Marty Brown, but he noted his team was prepared for the showdown.
"We had a really good day, batting practice-wise," manager Marty Brown said. "I think guys are relaxed and they're going out and playing good, solid baseball. If we can do that, we'll see where we go."
In a bit of a peculiar situation, the Herd threw two young pitchers experience in the Major Leagues for the Toronto Blue Jays who are both recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison both actually suffered their injuries that led to the procedure within a couple days of each other while in Toronto last season. Drabek's torn right elbow ligament occurred June 13, and he had the surgery six days later, while Hutchison's pitching elbow was damaged June 15.
In an unfamiliar position, Drabek, who has pitched 34 games, 30 starts, with a 5.34 earned run average in his MLB career with Toronto, actually pitched in relief Wednesday. He entered in the sixth inning.
"I think it's great that they have the ability to work together because it's a real challenge," Brown said of the two hurlers. "It's just a huge rehab. They're both doing well so far."
Drabek, especially. The 25-year-old and former first round pick tossed three scoreless innings to pick up the win, needing just 32 pitches. It was his 11th minor league rehab appearance, pitching eight games, six starts, for Single-A Dunedin and starting twice for Double-A New Hampshire this season.
"It felt good, I felt a lot better than I thought I would," said Drabek of an outing he didn't allow a hit in while striking out three. "As a starter, for me at least, it feels weird coming out of the pen but today it felt pretty good."
Coming out of the pen was a different experience for Drabek, but knows it's just part of the process getting back. The right-hander had the same surgery in 2008 while coming up through the Philadelphia Phillies organization and after recovering and being traded to Toronto, Brown managed him in Triple-A Las Vegas.
Since that time, Brown expressed that Drabek has matured. And being so close to coming all the way back once again, it's a careful process, but one the 25-year-old understands.
"Kyle's personality is different than it was when we had him before," Brown said. "You want to make sure that you don't get him hurt, especially at this point and this stage of coming back to push them so much that are putting themselves in the position to throw a pitch and injuring them."
Hutchison, 22, took the mound for his second start with the Herd, lasting three innings before being lifted as he neared his pitch count. Unlike his first start for the team, on Aug. 9, he was not on MLB injury rehab. The right-hander, who had Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow last August, was activated by the Blue Jays Saturday and joined Buffalo's roster Tuesday.
Throwing 72 pitches, 42 strikes, Hutchison struck out four and allowed two runs on four hits and a pair of walks. It was another step forward for him, lowering his ERA with the Herd from 14.73 to 10.80.
The second inning presented the biggest challenge for Hutchison and he faced it head-on, pitching into and out of trouble. Jermaine Mitchell struck out to start the frame but then two walks and a hit batter loaded the bases.
Eric Farris' fly ball to Sierra in mid-right field seemed like it was going to be score James Beresford from third on a sacrifice. But instead of going home with the throw after the catch, Sierra, alertly, saw Darin Mastroianni tagging from second and threw him out at third for inning-ending double play.
With Buffalo closing in on both the wild card and division leads, having proven MLB talent on the mound won't hurt the Herd's chances for a playoff berth.
"(Drabek) understands what a winning situation is," Brown said. "... He loves to be in the heat of the battle. I think Hutch's personality is the same way. They're going to get back to the big leagues, we can all see that they have that kind of ability. But for right now they're Bisons and they're going to go out and play as such."