After a weekend road trip to Rhode Island which saw the Bisons go 1-3, Buffalo returns home for an eight game homestand. This includes a four game series against the Columbus Clippers, which starts today at 1pm.
The series is a bit of a grudge match, as the Clippers’ roster features a number of former Bisons. Over the winter the Cleveland Indians ended their relationship with the Bisons, moving their minor league operations to Columbus instead.
Now there were plenty of reasons to leave Buffalo, including the ballpark everyone is so excited about (it’s part of the banner on the homepage). Still, for all the logistical and territorial reasons the Indians had for leaving, there are still quite a few baseball fans in Buffalo left unhappy by the move; and rightfully so.
Cleveland Indians baseball became a part of the summer for baseball fans in the Queen City, and it was easy to get upset about the way the relationship ended. That means this series may be a bit more emotional than your ordinary minor league baseball game; and I can’t see how that’s a bad thing.
As far as the current Bisons, they are starting to turn things around after an awful start to the season. Their team BA (.211), OBP (.282), and OPS (.598) are all last in the International League, but those numbers will slowly climb as the Bisons continue to bring in different players to fix their hitting woes.
Fernando Martinez continues to be the team’s best hitter, with a team leading 7 home runs and an .892 OPS. He’s been the most consistent Bison by far, but until recently he has been given little help. Former major leaguers Mike Lamb and Wily Mo Pena were brought in earlier this month to help the Bisons’ hitting woes. The results have been mixed: Lamb is just 12/76 (.158), and Pena has battled injuries while going 12/52 (.231) and hitting just one home run.
The Bisons’ strength this season has been pitching, but run support clearly has been hard to come by. It has gotten better and the Bisons are making moves to try improving their offense, but the results will take time. Javier Valentin has paid early dividends, but many of the prospects in the Mets’ system have been major disappointments early on.
First baseman Nick Evans was supposed to be an anchor in the lineup after spending some time with the Mets last season, but he went just 7 for 75 with The Herd and was mercifully sent down to AA Binghamton last week. Second baseman Jonathan Malo (.174) has also spent some time playing AA ball this year, another big letdown for the Bisons.
The good news is that it’s starting to resemble real baseball down at Coca Cola Field. I took in the doubleheader last Friday against Gwinnett, and aside from the final few innings of game two there were very few of the 1-2-3 innings that plagued games early in the season. They split the doubleheader after an extra-innings loss in the nightcap, but it was a loss that featured eight hits (scheduled for a 7 inning game), a few lead changes, and some real drama in the extra frame.
The facts are facts: the Bisons are a bad baseball team. However, they do seem to be playing better as of late, which means you won’t hate yourself for taking a trip to the ballpark and spending the ten bucks to watch it. When you’re watching minor league baseball, that’s really all you can ask for.
Today’s game will feature Mike Antonini’s second AAA start. The lefty went 3 1/3 innings last Friday in his first start with the Bisons, allowing five runs and striking out four. He will face the Clippers’ Zach Jackson, who is 2-2 with a 4.15 ERA.