By MICHAEL MROZIAK
Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — The Buffalo Bisons squandered an early two-run lead then fell behind, but hot bats put the Herd back in command as they defeated the Pawtucket Red Sox at Coca-Cola Field, 8-4, for Buffalo's 15th win of the season.
It's only the sixth time in the franchise's modern era that the Bisons have won at least 15 games in the month of April. The victory also gave manager Marty Brown his 253rd career win in a Buffalo uniform, tying him with former manager Brian Graham as the winningest Bisons manager in the modern era.
"That means I've been here longer than most other managers," joked Brown after the game. "It's an honor to come here and be in this atmosphere and have the opportunity to make a difference with some young players that went to the big leagues, and some pretty good ones."
Some of those pretty good young players rose to the occasion, both on the mound and at the plate, erasing a 4-2 PawSox lead very quickly. Heading into the bottom of the third, Buffalo cut the lead to just one run when Moises Sierra homered to left field. The following inning, Eugenio Velez drove in Andy LaRoche to tie the game.
Buffalo native Jim Negrych, who has been placed up and down the batting order all season and hit in the eighth spot last night, drove in the winning run with the first of his two doubles in the bottom of the sixth.
"As long as I'm in the lineup it doesn't matter where I hit," said Negrych, who went 3-for-4 and scored the Bisons' seventh run of the game. "You've seen the guys we've thrown out there day in and day out. It doesn't matter if he (Brown) draws the lineup out of his hat. We'e got 12 or 13 guys who are fully capable of going out there and putting up a good day and someone who's capable of carrying this team eery single night."
Negrych says that lineup forces pitchers to attack every player, because every player can pose a threat to opposing pitchers when there are runners on base.
Once Buffalo got its lead back, the Bisons put the game out of reach with two home runs to right field. The first one, by Luis Jimenez in the bottom of the seventh inning, cleared the right field party patio and left the ballpark.
Velez's homer landed in the same party patio, bringing the final two runs home.
In between, the Bisons' pitching remained steady and kept Pawtucket from mounting any comeback. Claudio Vargas, after giving up four runs early, settled down and struck out four in six innings of work. Alex Hinshaw struck out three in his two innings on the mound, while Neil Wagner struck out all three batters he faced in the top of the ninth.
Buffalo improved to 15-5 on the season and travels to Rochester today to begin a four-game series against their Thruway rivals the Red Wings. Today's opening pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m.