By MICHAEL MROZIAK
Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — For the first time in over a month, the Buffalo Bisons are not sitting atop the International League's North Division.
A late rally fell just one run short Friday night, as the Bisons fell to the Indianapolis Indians, 6-5, at Coca-Cola Field. That loss, coupled with the Pawtucket Red Sox's 4-3 win over Louisville, moves the PawSox into sole possession of first place in the IL North.
"The rally was a little short but I'll tell you I was proud of our guys," said Bisons manager Marty Brown. "This Indy club has some good arms, they really do. They're not scared to tell you from the dugout, either. Right now they're feeling good about themselves and I was proud of the way our guys battled to get something going…"
The Indians, who lead the IL's West Division, struggled themselves in the early stages of the game. Buffalo's starting pitcher Claudio Vargas retired the first ten Indy batters, but the Indians broke the scoreless tie in the top of the fourth inning when Matt Hague smacked a line shot over the left field wall for a two-run home run.
Buffalo evened the score in the bottom of the fourth. Luis Jiminez scored on a Andy LeRoche double, followed by Mauro Gomez scoring on a wild pitch.
The Bisons then put themselves in position in the bottom of the fifth inning to score more runs. Catcher Mike Nickeas singled and then Mike McCoy walked. However, the Herd couldn't capitalize on that, as the next three batters went down. Jim Negrych flied out, followed by strikeouts by Moises Sierra and Jiminez.
The following inning, the wheels fell off for Vargas as he walked Alex Presley, who became the first of four Indians runners to reach home.
"All of a sudden he just lost command," Brown said. "I don't know if his focus was lost because we didn't score. After that it seemed he struggled to get the ball down into the zone and they took advantage of it."
The Bisons staged a rally in the bottom of the eighth inning. With Erik Cordier fresh on the mound for the Indians, Sierra grounded out but then Jimenez walked. LeRoche was hit by a pitch and took first base, and then advanced as Eugenio Velez walked. Buffalo's Ryan Langerhans entered the game as a pinch hitter and was walked, allowing Jimenez to score. Josh Thole then smacked a single up the middle bringing two more runs home. The Bisons cut the lead to 6-5 but rally was halted when McCoy struck out to end the inning.
The Herd could not resume the rally in the bottom of the ninth. Negrych flied out to left field. Sierra grounded out to second. Jiminez grounded out to shortstop, and the Indians escaped with the win.
Kris Johnson (5-3) picked up the win for Indianapolis while Vargas (3-4) took the loss. Jared Hughes picked up the save for the Indians.
The game took a tense turn in the top of the seventh inning when Indy's Pie became upset by something said in the Bisons dugout then turned toward them in a menacing approach. Both benches cleared and the players gathered just to the right of home plate.
So just what was said that got Pie that upset?
"At this level guys are constantly saying something to somebody," said Brown, who was disappointed that the incident happened, especially with kids in the crowd. "You just don't react to things from the dugout."
The situation was quickly defused with no punches thrown, Pie was ejected and the game resumed.
The Bisons and Indians meet again this afternoon, with the first pitch scheduled for 1:05 p.m.