By Mike Meiler
Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — The Buffalo Bisons put plenty of runners on base Thursday afternoon, but failed to come through in the clutch.
The Herd stranded eight runners, went 2 for 7 with runners in scoring position and hit into four double plays as it fell to the Gwinnett Braves, 3-2, at Coca-Cola Field, falling for the third straight game.
Gwinnett starter David Hale (2-3) danced in and out of danger for six scoreless innings. He gave up hits to Buffalo's Mike McCoy and Mauro Gomez in the first inning, but escaped when Luis Jimenez, third in the International League in RBIs, grounded into a double play.
The Bisons (36-36) didn't help themselves, either.
A leadoff double by Moises Sierra in the second turned into an out when Sierra got himself into a rundown. Ricardo Nanita followed with a one-out single, but Sean Ochinko grounded into a double play of his own to end the inning.
Jimenez hit a one-out double in the fourth, which Sierra followed with a single. But Jimenez held at third, and Nanita grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.
"We squandered some chances early on that really killed us," Bisons manager Marty Brown said. "We put some hits together, but nothing really happened until late. It was one of those days where several different things were out of whack."
The Braves (31-44) struck for the game's first run in the top of the fourth after being held hitless through three by Buffalo starter Justin Germano (4-6). Todd Cunningham led off with a single and advanced to second on Joey Terdoslavich's groundout to the pitcher. He them moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a two-out single by Brandon Boggs.
Germano gave up just five hits through seven, and Brown sent him back out for the eighth inning. Cunningham led off with a double to right, and two batters later, Ernesto Mejia took an 0-1 pitch over the left field wall for a two-run shot, his 17th of the season.
The Bisons finally broke through in the ninth, though it proved to be too little, too late. With reliever Ryan Buchter pitching Mauro Gomez led off with a 12-pitch strikeout in an at bat that started 0-2. Jimenez took the next pitch to center for a single, followed by a six-pitch Sierra strike out.
Nanita walked on four pitches, and Ochinko took a free base after a seven-pitch battle. Cole McCurry came in to close it out, but Ryan Goins singled to right on his first pitch, scoring Jimenez and Nanita. Eugenio Velez drew a seven-pitch walk to reload the bases, but McCoy flew out to center to end the game. McCurry earned his second save of the season.
Gwinnett took the four-game series, winning the final three games. The Bisons, once 10 games over .500, now sit even on the season.
"We're very disappointed," Brown said. "You can sit around and make excuses all you want about movement or injuries, but these guys have been together since spring training and have played very well together. We've hit a lull."
The Bisons now host Durham for another four-gamer, starting at 7:05 tonight.Follow sports reporter Mike Meiler on Twitter @mikemeiler for updates on your local teams.