Tonawanda News — BUFFALO — The Buffalo Bisons have looked like a different team of late.
After what had been a mostly seamless beginning to the Herd’s season offensively, their suddenly stagnant bats have forced the team to rely on pitching to put together wins.
This week, the pitching was good, but alone was not enough.
After scoring just three runs in two losses to open their series with North Division rival Lehigh Valley, the Bisons managed just three more Friday over two seven-inning games to split a doubleheader in front of an announced 8,827 at Coca-Cola Field.
Starting pitcher Ricky Romero turned in a solid performance in Game 1, which had been postponed to Friday afternoon after Thursday’s rain, as the Bisons used a late rally to escape with a 4-3 win.
In the nightcap, Game 2 starter Justin Germano strung together six solid innings but took the hard-luck loss due to a pair of sloppy errors that led to a 4-0 IronPigs win, their second shutout of the Bisons in a week.
Each game followed a similar theme: the starters pitched well enough to win, but only one of the results reflected as much.
“We didn’t get a lot off (IronPigs Game 2 starter Greg) Smith today with the way he pitched against us,” said Bisons manager Marty Brown, who returned to the bench for the first time since his three-game suspension.
“We went through a lull early on too in the year because guys are playing against certain pitchers or they’re not getting overly aggressive. … It’s a grind. I think sometimes we lose sight of that.”
The Bisons grinded out a win in Game 1, their only victory over the IronPigs this week.
Romero made his sixth start of the season, his second at home, and provided glimpses that he’s continuing to improve as he and the Bisons cruised through the first five innings.
From the mound, the 28-year-old lefty seemed to be in total control, retiring 11 straight batters after the second inning as the offense spotted him a 2-0 lead with runs in the third and fourth.
The IronPigs did, however, finally manage to ruffle Romero in the sixth inning as they rattled off four hits to take a 3-2 lead. But Luis Jimenez came back in the Bisons’ half and took a first-pitch fastball over the the wall in dead center field for his 13th home run before Mike McCoy singled home Moises Sierra to put the Herd back on top for good.
Romero finished with three earned runs on seven hits over 5.2 innings of work. Rookie John Stilson came in for the remainder of the game to earn the win in relief.
“Strongest outing so far,” Brown said of Romero, who has a 10.22 earned run average on the season. “That last inning, they were just well-placed balls. He made some good pitches and I think he kind of feels snake bitten when he gets to that part of the game. But he pitched well. I was very pleased with what I saw.”
The Bisons managed just three hitsin Game 2 off of Smith, who tossed 5.1 innings of shutout ball. Germano gave up six hits over six innings for the Bisons, with just two of his four runs allowed earned.
Buffalo scored just six runs, all of which came in two games, over the series with Lehigh Valley. The IronPigs now sit just 2.5 games back of the Bisons for second place in the International League North Division.
“We just didn’t swing the bats like we have been,” Brown said.
The Bisons head to Scranton tomorrow to begin a four-game series against the Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. It’s part of an eight-game road stand for the Herd.
NOTES: Anthony Gose returned from Toronto and made his first start for the Bisons since May 20. … Toronto recalled third baseman Andy LaRoche and catcher Josh Thole on Friday. … The Blue Jays also signed veteran pitcher Chien-Ming Wang, which means Chad Jenkins, who started for the Bisons Wednesday, could remain around Buffalo longer than anticipated.
Follow contributing sports reporter Brandon Schlager on Twitter @B_Schlag.