Editor note: Julian Santiago is a freshman at Springfield College, taking sports journalism. He's from Buffalo and is going to send us game recaps of the Bisons home games.
Gwinnett Braves 3 Buffalo Bisons 2
Bison’s ace and Blue Jays tenth ranked prospect Sean Nolin took the hill Tuesday night against the Gwinnett Braves. Nolin battled hard attempting to bounce back from his last start in which he gave up a season high four earned runs also against the Braves. Ultimately his lack of command dug him into one too many holes and he ended up taking the loss in a game where his pitching line fails to tell the whole story.
The trouble started early for Nolin as the first two Braves both reached base to start the game. This was the first of three serious scares that he would find a way out of in the opening four innings. "Sean did a great job of working out of a couple of jams," said manager Gary Allenson, "he uses all of his pitches and keeps you off balance". Each time men found themselves in scoring position Nolin forced critical pop outs to end the threats. Unfortunately he was unable to keep dancing his way out of trouble. "I thought he did a pretty good job but he lost his command in the sixth," said Allenson, "it was a mulligan inning".
Nolin who had been consistently falling behind hitters really shot himself in the foot by loading the bases with two walks and a single in the inning. "Sean pitched a good game but you can’t walk guys," said left fielder Darin Mastroianni. From there, RBI singles by Jose Yepez and Sean Kazmar drove the young lefty out of the game. John Stilson was called on from the pen to try and clean up the mess, but a walk on five quick pitches pushed in the go ahead run. Stilson pitched 1.2 innings, allowing 1 hit and 1 walk, no earned runs. Stilson hasn't allowed an earned run in his last 5 appearances. In those 8.2 innings, he's given up 5 hits, 2 walks and struck out 11. The Braves held on to this 3-2 lead to take the first game of the series.
To Nolin’s defense he was hampered by an undisclosed leg injury during this troubling sixth inning. "He’s got a leg problem. I can’t be specific about it, but just to be safe we took him out of there," said Allenson. On top of that the herd’s offense which had been simply unstoppable of late failed to come through with men in scoring position. A leadoff homerun by Mastroianni stood as the game’s only run before Munenori Kawasaki ripped a two out RBI double in the fifth. For Kawasaki this marked the sixth of his last seven starts in which he has racked up a double after failing to get a single extra base hit in 25 games in Buffalo a year ago. These were the only two blemishes for the Braves pitchers who controlled the game. Daniel Rodriguez picked up the win after seven strong innings giving up just the two earned runs, while Juan Jaime picked up the save.
All in all this game can be taken as a positive for the Jays. The lack of Kevin Pillar in the middle of the lineup clearly affected the Bisons which hopefully will have the converse effect for the Jays. On top of that Sean Nolin did show some really good signs. Had he not walked four batters he likely would have been on pace to start a long run of scoreless innings as he had earlier in the year rattling off 25 plus. He showed a great deal of resolve working out of the jams he faced, and assuming that the leg injury is as minor as Allenson seems to think it is, he could be well on his way up into a pitching staff that is in need of good arms.