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New Players Help Buffalo in Playoff Push

Will Bisons qualify for the playoffs?

It all comes down to this: Two weeks left in the regular season, and five teams—Buffalo, Rochester, Pawtucket, Lehigh Valley, and Norfolk—all fighting and clawing desperately for every win, every run, every inning. Two teams will vie for the Governors Cup playoffs. The rest will go home.

Will Buffalo be one of those teams? Will baseball fans here experience playoff baseball games for the first time since 2005?

“We’re hoping. We’re mashing it. We’re trying.” Those were the words of Kyle Drabek, one of the newest additions to the Bisons roster. Drabek made a three-inning appearance last Friday and got his first AAA win against Rochester. He retired all nine batters he faced. Not so good in his second start this week over in Pawtucket, when he allowed two earned runs in four innings of work but got little offensive support. The team lost 3-0. Drabek was 4-7 last season in the big leagues with Toronto, but missed almost a year of action due to Tommy John surgery.

There are some new players who have joined the team from AA New Hampshire, and they are making a big impact with the club. Outfielder Ricardo Nanita has taken the designated hitter spot and has hit safely in each game he has played in. Outfielder Brad Glenn has made a big impression on the team after a standout season at the AA level. Catcher A. J. Jimenez brings an offensive presence to the lineup.

And who did the Bisons lose? Anthony Gose, Mumenori Kawasaki, and Kevin Pillar were all promoted to Toronto. Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos has made a strong statement with his roster, letting everyone know that this year’s dismal results are unacceptable, in a season where most pundits though the Jays would contend for a playoff spot and a shot at the World Series.

Pillar’s loss in particular was a tough one for the Herd, but manager Marty Brown took it in stride. “We expected that Kevin would get the call up at some point in time. He did everything here we asked of him and he deserves the opportunity. Now it’s up to us to fill those shoes, and we’ve got some good guys coming in.”

Brown is looking for complete team performances, like the one last Friday night, when almost every player in the lineup contributed on offense, the pitching cobbled together to make a difference, and there were enough defensive contributions from all parts of the field. “We’re not looking for heroes,” Brown said. “We’re looking for leadership from all corners. It can come from anyone on this team and these situations are what you dream about. Just to be able to be in this position with less than three weeks left is exciting for me as a manager, and it should be for every player.”

One player Brown would love to have back in the lineup is Mauro Gomez, whose recovery from a slight injury is progressing. “We expect to have him up and playing again before the end of the regular season,” Brown reported. “That’s one bat we would love to have…his being active immediately makes us a better team.” Gomez was the team’s home run leader before going on the disabled list last month.

For Buffalo to even qualify, they will need stellar pitching performances from starters Ricky Romero and Chen Ming Wang. “We will keep putting those guys out there. They are veterans and they have been in these situations,” said Brown. “We will sink or swim with the guys that got us to this point, and I have tremendous confidence in all these men in this room.”

One thing is certain—the August crowds at Coca Cola Field have been loud, intense, and into the action, as everyone knows what is at stake. “The fans have been great,” said infielder Jim Negrych. “We hear it in the dugout, we get the cheers and the jeers and we need to be accountable. Make no mistake. These Buffalo fans aren’t just here for the fireworks. They want to see a pennant. We want to make it happen. We really do.”

Around the Bases (Playoff Preview)…

• The first round of the playoffs begins on Wednesday, September 4, with the wild card winner playing the IL North Division winner. If Buffalo snags the wild card, the home games in the best of five series would be played in Buffalo on September 4 and 5.

• If Buffalo were to advance to the Governors Cup final, they would enjoy home field advantage and host games three, four, and five of the best-of-five series, September 12-14.

• The AAA World Series, pitting the champions of the International League and the Pacific Coast League in a one-game showdown for AAA supremacy, will take place on Tuesday, September 17, and be held in Coca Cola Park in Lehigh Valley. The game will be nationally televised on the NBC Sports Network.

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