By Doug Smith email@example.com
Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — The brim of his Golden Sombrero loosened by a wisecrack from Blue Jay great George Bell, Moises Sierra banged a two-out, two-run double off the left field wall to give the Bisons an improbable 7-6 victory over the Columbus Clippers in a glorious day for the game Friday at Coca-Cola Field.
More than 11,000 fans, ranging from kiddie campers to nursing-homers, were already enjoying a balmy day of super setting and stinky script when the Herd came up in the ninth down 6-3.
New Bison Clint Robinson, batting less than half a healthy temperature, worked a walk and Mike McCoy, spotting the first baseman playing back, dropped an unplayable bunt into the infield’s Bermuda Triangle. “Just a tremendously smart, heads-up at bat,” an elated manager Marty Brown would later say.
Anthony Gose, also struggling offensively, ripped a single to right, loading the bases as the Herd played station-to-station.
Ninth-hitting Mike Nickeas, already with two RBIs, singled sharply to left. All advanced one. Kevin Pillar lofted a sacrifice fly to center, cutting the margin to 6-5.
Ryan Goins stepped in, stepped out, asked for time and didn’t get it. In the hubbub, Clipper closer Nick Hagagone threw wildly, runners advancing to second and third, then fanned Goins on two pitches barely in the ZIP code, the game’s 16th strikeout of a Herd hitter.
Up came Sierra, just off the injured list. He had struck out four times, thrice swinging. Bell, visiting the club as a goodwill ambassador, jived him out of the dugout, according to Brown. “Might as well swing, you’ve struck out four times, nothing to lose” said Bell, probably the only man in the ballpark with the credentials to hassle a player so hurtin’.
But as Nickeas would say later, “Every at-bat’s a new at-bat to ‘Mo,’” who drilled one far over the head of the left fielder, defensively in a few steps. After an anxious moment for Herd hooters, the ball could be seen kissing the wall. Pinch-runner Munenori Kawasaki scored the winner, but with two outs, the ball was hit so far that probably Brown could have scored it himself.
Columbus scored three in first, the Herd tying in the third, Nickeas and Pillar providing key hits after a Clipper infield error. An unearned run returned the lead to Columbus in the fourth and Roberto Perez’ double centered the Clippers’ two-run fifth.
Thereafter, Herd hurlers slammed the door, hitless ball for four innings with Brad Lincoln getting the “W” on a 1-2-3 ninth, nothing leaving the infield.
Brown would reflect on the small-ball strategy which propelled the Clippers out of the gate. “Their first was a lot like our ninth,” he would say. “Except they didn’t get to come back.”
NOTES: Jim Negrych missed the game with a slight strain. … Strikeout stories: Every Bison whiffed at least once, 16 in all, 11 swinging; Herd hurlers hung nine K’s, but none among the first three in the order. … Nickeas’ second-inning single, two outs, 3 & 2 count, scored McCoy all the way from first. “I owe him for that,” said Nickeas, who moments later came all the way around on Pillar’s triple. … Buffalo hits the road now, eight games in Ohio. A game like this, Brown said, “Can get you clickin’.”