By MATT PARRINO
Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — After allowing only three earned runs combined in his first three starts of the season, Buffalo Bisons pitcher Claudio Vargas has surrendered at least that many in each of his last three outings — the last of which came Wednesday night in a 8-4 loss to the Norfolk Tides.
Vargas went six innings, allowing five earned runs and a pair of long balls to put the Herd (20-11) in a hole they weren't able to escape.
Bisons manager Marty Brown said the lackluster start from Vargas was very uncharacteristic.
"It's not really typical of him," he said. "He came out and looked a little lackadaisical and he didn't have a lot of energy, but he regrouped I thought."
The Bisons led 3-2 after the first inning on the strength of an RBI double by red-hot second baseman Jim Negrych, a single by right fielder Moises Sierra and a one-out RBI single by catcher Josh Thole.
But in the top of the fifth inning, Tides' cleanup hitter Danny Valencia blasted a 3-2 pitch over the left field wall to put his team up for good.
Brown though Vargas settled down after giving up the second long ball, but it was too late for the Bisons, who finished with only six hits in the game.
"The pitch he gave up the home run to Valencia was a change up first pitch, which probably wasn't the best pitch selection," Brown said. "Claudio, sometimes, needs to rethink about how he's going to attack a hitter in a certain situation."
Negrych improved his Internaional League-best batting average to .429 in the loss and extended his current hitting streak to seven games.
Blue Jays starting second baseman Emilio Bonifacio recorded his first hit since April 27 on Wednesday night, sparking even more fan fare around Negrych, who is still waiting for his first-ever call up to the show. The 28-year-old Buffalo native has hit safely in 21 of 24 games and has 11 multi-hit games on the season (six with at least three hits).
Buffalo threatened in the seventh inning with the game still within reach at 5-3 by loading the bases with two outs after a Mike McCoy single and walks by Anthony Gose and Negrych, but Sierra grounded out to end the inning.
Norfolk added a pair of insurance runs in the top of the eighth when third baseman Eugenio Velez botched a routine throw to second base with two runners aboard. The Tides scored one more in the eighth and the Bisons added the final run of the game on a Ryan Langerhans' home run.
Langerhans is now tied for the team lead with seven home runs on the season.
Buffalo jumped out quickly on Norfolk starter Jair Jurrjens in the first inning, but the veteran righty settled down and finished with three strike outs, one walk and allowed only four hits in six innings of work.
"I think (Jurrjens) settled in and started to use his change up more effectively," Brown said. "We were very aggressive early in the count and got ourselves out a lot, but his change up was pretty effective against us."
Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ was hospitalized on Tuesday after getting struck in the head with a ball hit back at the pitchers mound. Brown is hoping for a speedy recovery for the lefty.
"Those are such tough situations," Brown said. "I've been hit throwing batting practice and the ball is on top of you so quick you don't even have time to think about it. I'm just glad he's OK and hopefully he can regroup and it doesn't affect him as a pitcher."
NOTES: The Bisons extended their home run streak to eight straight games with Langerhans' solo shot in the ninth. … Chad Beck made his first appearance for the Bisons, going 1 1/3 innings with a strike out, two walks and one earned run allowed. … Bisons first baseman Luis Jimenez went hitless for only the third time in his last 10 games and is No. 2 in the International League with a .366 average. … The Pawtucket Red Sox picked up a game on the Herd, beating Gwinnett 4-1 Wednesday night. The Bisons are now a game up in the IL North Division.Find Matt Parrino on Twitter @MattParrino.