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No Offense, Ma'am

Bisons bats go silent as dreary month continues

The All Star break has come and gone, but the Buffalo Bisons’ spiral into the abyss just seems to continue without missing a beat.

The script last season was a dismal pennant chase, when the team’s offense sputtered in July and August, and injuries and callups decimated the lineup. Jim Negrych ran out of gas after a fabulous start to the 2013 season, Kevin Pillar and Moises Sierra looked downright ordinary before they too got their call ups to Toronto. Fill ins from AA Manchester were overwhelmed by pitching at the AAA level. By the time Labor Day rolled around, Buffalo was limping to the finish line.

The Bisons returned home this week after a pretty awful road trip to start off the second part of the season. They collected just a few hits at each game down in Pawtucket, where they were swept.

About the most exciting thing that happened on that trip was a bench clearing brawl between the Bisons and the PawSox, which happened last Friday at McCoy Stadium. Starting pitcher Esmil Rogers surrendered a home run in the 6th inning, which at the time tied the game at 3.

Rogers proceeded to get the next two outs to end the inning, and as he departed the mound, he began chirping at Pawtucket batter Corey Brown, who he had just struck out, and also making gestures at the PawSox dugout. Brown turned around and went after Rogers, and both dugouts and bullpens emptied out, with a large shoving match between 40 or so players then ensuing. Tempers had already been flaring when earlier in the game Rogers hit Boston Red Sox player Will Middlebrooks in the back with a pitch. Middlebrooks was down with the PawSox on a rehabilitation assignment, and apparently had his season ended last year when he was hit in the wrist on a pitch by the very same Esmil Rogers.

All this drama aside, the Bisons aren’t playing very good ball right about now and not seizing offensive opportunities when they are presented. “You’re not going to win many games when the best you can do is plate just two runs,” groused Manager Gary Allenson last week just before the All Star break. When asked which players Allenson was looking at to help spark the team and get the offense moving again, he replied, “I’m looking at anyone who wants to get things started. I’m looking for anyone who will grasp the ring and take the lead. We need offense. The guys are not getting it done.”

The Bisons have three new players in the lineup: Ryan Schimpf is playing in the outfield and Allenson managed him for two seasons in AA New Hampshire. Infielders Cory Aldridge and Mike McDade also joined the roster this month to fill in some holes. Aldridge is showing some offensive prowess in the DH position, but for the time being, none of them seem to be the answer. Additionally, the Blue Jays picked up infielder Brett Wallace from the Baltimore Orioles and assigned him to Buffalo, helping to fill the void when infielder Dan Johnson, one of the more productive members of the team, was promoted to Toronto a week earlier.

The power outage is not something unique to Buffalo; up in Toronto the parent Blue Jays have been struggling as well to put runs up on the board. Since the All Star break they have had at least some success, but at the moment are out of first place in the American League East, and also trail, but are within striking distance, for a wild card berth.

Things are a lot more dire here in Buffalo, where the team is 11 games out of the division lead and 6 out of a wild card berth. Three quarters of the team’s remaining schedule will be against North Division opponents.

Around the Bases

• Remember those four awful years when the Bisons were the AAA affiliate of the New York Mets? (2009-2012). Since moving to Las Vegas, the Mets farmhands, led by former Bisons Manager Wally Backman, have been tearing up the Pacific Coast League. The Las Vegas 51s are well on their way to securing their second straight playoff berth in two years.

• Bisons pitcher Liam Hendriks got the win and earned “Top Star” honors at last week’s AAA All Star Game in Durham, North Carolina. Hendriks pitched the 1st and 2nd innings, allowed only one base hit and struck out four batters. When he departed the mound the International League squad had a safe 4-0 lead.

• Congratulations to Bisons front office staffer Beth Potozniak, who last week was named to Business First’s “30 under 30” list for 2014. Potozniak, who joined the Bisons last season, is a member of the team’s sales team and is involved with corporate sponsorships, group sales, and executing fund raising awareness for numerous charities that the team promotes.

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