Timeliness is critical in baseball, and a bit of mistiming can go a long way in determining a game's outcome.
That fundamental truth was on full display Thursday night at Coca-Cola Field, where the Bisons offense stalled time and time again. The predominant culprit was double plays, and the Herd hit into four throughout the evening.
When one crack of the bat leads to two outs, runs will be hard to come by. Double plays kill chances, and the Bisons failed to push across any runs Thursday. When all was said and done, the Herd dropped a 5-0 decision to Pawtucket, in the first of a four-game set between the division rivals.
"You can't win ballgames if you don't score runs, that's for sure," Bisons manager Wally Backman said. "They made good pitches at the right times, they got the double play when they needed it. Every time we thought we were getting something going, they got a ground ball double play, and one line drive double play."
Despite its difficulties sustaining offense, the Bisons hung around deep into the game, courtesy of stellar early pitching by starter Matt Harvey. The right-hander carried a 5-2 record into the game, and he dazzled early by starting the game with 5.2 consecutive innings of scoreless, hitless ball.
Harvey notched ten strikeouts in his seven innings of work, confounding batters with a fastball that entered the mid-nineties, as well as a change-up that he has fine-tuned throughout the season.
"The way he commanded his fastball and commanded his stuff got him to chase some pitches," Backman said. "He pitched ahead in the count better tonight. It's a positive outing for him."
But after retiring the first two PawSox in the sixth, Harvey ran into trouble for the first time all night. Needing one out to make it through the inning, Harvey allowed a hit and a walk to put two men on base.
With the scoreless tie hanging in the balance, Pawtucket's Ryan Lavarnway came up with the play of the game, hitting a screaming line drive that cleared the fences over the outstretched arm of Buffalo's Raul Reyes. The three-run shot gave Pawtucket the 3-0 lead, and the PawSox would not need any more offense on the evening.
One pitch, three runs.
"He (Harvey) made just one bad pitch," Backman said. "He threw a 2-1 breaking ball to him, then he went to 3-1. He's got to throw it again, and he threw a fastball to him. To me, that was the only mistake he really made."
The sole miscue proved costly, as Pawtucket's stingy defense kept the Herd from putting runners in scoring position consistently. In the bottom of the 2nd, Buffalo had a chance to get Valentino Pascucci in scoring position, after Pascucci ripped a one-out single to right field. But Matt Tuiasosopo promptly grounded to short, and the easy double play was made to end the opportunity.
In just the next inning, the double-play threat again reared its ugly head. Rob Johnson led off the inning with a long double that bounced just fair in the right field corner, and a Raul Reyes groundout advanced Johnson to third. With the game still scoreless, the Bisons had a golden opportunity to take the early lead.
After Brad Emaus was hit by a pitch, the prospects looked even better, with runners on the corners and one out. But one unlucky swing of the bat can kill momentum in a hurry, and Matt Den Dekker's screaming line drive shot directly toward PawSox second baseman Tony Thomas. The catch was made, and Thomas was positioned perfectly to make the easy toss to first base for the force out. Thomas made no mistake, and the inning was over.
Sometimes a well-hit ball finds itself in the wrong place, and a good swing goes for naught. Over a long season of baseball, no team is immune to periods of misfortune. Thursday was just one of those nights for Buffalo.
"Today's just one game out of four," Backman said. "But we need to play better. We need to score more runs. We had some opportunities, we hit into double plays."
Bisons Notes: Justin Turner, on rehab assignment from the Mets, made his first 2012 start for the Herd. Playing shortstop, Turner went 1-for-4 on the night...Pedro Beato saw his scoreless innings streak end at 13.0 innings, when a Tony Thomas sacrifice fly scored Che-Hsuan Lin in the top of the 9th...Harvey's seven innings of work equaled his longest outing of the season to date. Harvey went seven strong on April 25 at Lehigh Valley.
from team press release