(bisons.com) - It wasn't a two-for-one this time, but the Buffalo Bisons will take the result.
The Bisons swept a doubleheader with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders last Thursday, but Monday, they split a twinbill against the Syracuse Chiefs at Coca-Cola Field. The Chiefs took the first game, 5-3, while Buffalo took the nightcap, 3-2, to stay atop the wild-card standings by a half-game over Norfolk and idle Pawtucket.
The Herd was unable to overcome four first-inning runs by the Chiefs in the first game, their rally when down 5-3 in the bottom of the seventh and final inning ultimately coming up short.
Moises Sierra, who was 2 for 3 and scored a run in Game One, started things off with a leadoff single in the seventh. Luis Jimenez's hot-shot grounder got under the glove of shortstop Danny Espinosa and ricocheted into shallow center, prompting Sierra to take off for third, where he was thrown out by a step. Two pitches later, Ryan Goins grounded into a 3-6-3 double play to end the game.
Buffalo bounced back in the nightcap, putting together only three hits but feasting off of three Syracuse errors, which directly led to all three runs. The game featured 12 walks, five being drawn by the Herd.
"A win's a win," manager Marty Brown said. "Unfortunately we didn't get it done in the first game but we battled throughout the game, had an opportunity at the end. ... Second game we battled to get the runs that we got, took advantage of them making some errors, fortunately we held them towards the tail-end of the game."
It appeared Ricky Romero's 18th start of the season was going to be a short-lived one in Game One. Save for a tough first inning, Romero was on point, turning around a slow start to go the distance for the first time this season. The left-hander allowed four runs on three hits and a pair of walks in the first frame, but gave up just one run on six hits while not issuing another walk over the final six.
"It's hard to pinpoint sometimes," Brown said. "Rick will go out there in one inning, like you seen in that first inning, and things were a little flat. He centers the ball and got hit. I was proud of the way he regrouped himself after the four-run first and only giving up the other run."
Chris Marrero's three-run double with no outs was the big blow, making it 4-0 and getting the Herd's bullpen busy. But Romero battled back, retiring the next three batters to limit the damage and proceeded to add a 1-2-3 second frame.
Outside of the 30-pitch first, Romero worked efficiently, hurling a season-high 110 pitches, 68 for strikes, and fanning seven, also tying his season-high. The last four innings saw Romero at his best, striking out the side in the fourth and cruising through the fifth and sixth innings in seven and eight pitches, respectively.
Romero coming back and delivering a complete game after the way the first unfolded saved a Buffalo bullpen that was used heavily in a two-game weekend series against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. It also showcased a resiliency by the 28-year-old that wasn't lost on his manager.
"It was huge because we used more guys in Scranton than we really wanted to," Brown said of Romero, who set down 12 of the final 16 batters. "That was big. The last inning I wanted to send him back out just to see what he was made of. I think Rick showed a little something about his character."
Like Romero, the Herd's offense climbed back into the game after going down four early.
Mike McCoy led off the game with a single and Anthony Gose sent him from first to third with a single into right. Kevin Pillar plated McCoy with a sacrifice fly to center, though it would have dropped for a hit if not for a diving catch by Cory Brown. Gose stole second and third on consecutive pitches to Clint Robinson, who hit an RBI sacrifice fly to left, cutting the lead to 4-2.
Anthony Gose and Kevin Pillar reached consecutively on fielding errors in the first inning of Game Two. Following a Robinson walked, Sierra, with an RBI sacrifice fly to right, and Andy LaRoche, an RBI single to center, made the Chiefs pay for their mistakes that prolonged the inning.
Mike McCoy added an RBI on an error by Zach Walters in the fourth. He hit a sharp grounder to short, where it hit Walters' glove and went over his head and into shallow left. Jim Negrych, who walked to begin the inning, scored on the play.
"I thought in key situations we went up and had a pretty decent plan for the most part," Brown said.
Joel Carreno (4-2) picked up the win in relief, tossing two shutout innings, giving up two hits and fanning a pair.
The finale of the three-game series is Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. before the Herd welcomes the Rochester Red Wings to town for a three-game set with potential playoff implications.