By Mike Meiler
Niagara Gazette — The Buffalo Bisons maintained their two-game International League North Division lead over the Pawtucket Red Sox, splitting a doubleheader Thursday afternoon at Coca-Cola Field.
The Bisons (14-5) were six outs away from from extending their winning streak to 11 and pulling 10 games above .500 for the first time since 2010, but they gave up eight runs in the top of the sixth inning of game one en route to an 8-3 seven-inning loss.
Moises Sierra doubled in Anthony Gose in the first inning, and Mauro Gomez and Ryan Langerhans both hit solo home runs in the bottom of the second to give Buffalo a 3-0 lead.
That's all, it appeared, starter Dave Bush would need. Bush (2-1) retired the first 13 batters he faced before giving up a ground-ball single up the middle to Pawtucket (13-8) right fielder Bryce Brentz in the top of the fifth. He then walked left fielder Jeremy Hazelbaker, but escaped by inducing a 5-4-3 double play from shortstop Jose Iglesias.
In the sixth, Pawtucket catcher Dan Butler led off with an dribbling ground ball in the infield that went for a single. After second baseman Jonathan Diaz lined out to second, center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., of short-lived Boston Red Sox fame, hit a sinking liner to short that went off the glove of Buffalo's Ryan Goins for an error.
Pawtucket third baseman Drew Sutton followed with a hard fly ball to right that dropped under a diving Sierra's glove for a two-run triple. First baseman Brandon Snyder followed with a single, and then a walk to designated hitter Mark Hamilton ended Bush's day.
Reliever Mickey Storey took over from there and immediately induced a fly out from Brentz to right. Hazelbaker followed that with a three-run homer to right, Iglesias hit an infield single and Butler homered to extend the lead to 8-3.
Ex-Bison Jose De La Torre took over for knuckleballer Charlie Haeger (1-0) in the sixth, and gave up just one walk while striking out two to end the game.
In game two, Mike McCoy homered on the first pitch in the bottom of the first inning, and that was all starter Ramon Ortiz would need to get a 4-0 win.
"We had our opportunities (in game one), we just didn't cash in," said Bisons manager Marty Brown, who is one game shy of his 253rd win, which will tie Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Brian Graham for most wins in the Bisons modern era. "I thought Ortiz was solid in the second game coming back ... and I guess we'll take that."
Ortiz (1-0), who cleared waivers from Toronto and was activated earlier in the day, pitched five innings of two-hit ball, striking out three and walking two in his return to AAA.
Luis Jimenez his a solo shot in the second inning, Gomez singled in Gose in the third and Gose knocked in a run with a bases-loaded ground out in the fourth to round out the scoring for Buffalo.
Buffalo hosts Pawtucket at 6:05 p.m. tonight at Coca-Cola Field to round out this four-game series.Follow Gazette sports reporter Mike Meiler on Twitter @mikemeiler for updates on your local teams.