BUFFALO, N.Y. (Bisons.com) - In a season full of quality starts for Nelson Figueroa, Tuesday night he may have turned in his best performance thus far. Figueroa struck out nine and allowed just five base runners over eight innings in the Herd's, 2-1, victory over the Pawtucket Red Sox at Coca-Cola Field.
Figueroa looked sharp from the beginning. After giving up back-to-back singles with one out in the first inning, Figueroa retired 15 in a row, including nine strikeouts. A one-out walk to Jeff Natale in the sixth snapped the streak.
The Brooklyn native had command of his entire repertoire, throwing 79 of 119 pitches for strikes. Figueroa's breaking ball looked as good as it has all season long, freezing some Paw Sox hitters and getting others to chase it in the dirt.
Pawtucket starter, Junichi Tazawa, was very good in his own right. The 23-year-old, making his triple-A debut after posting a 9-5 record with a 2.57 ERA with Portland (AA), went six innings, allowed just two runs (one earned), three hits and three strikeouts.
The Bisons took advantage of a Pawtucket miscue to push a run across in the first inning. With Argenis Reyes on third with two outs, Mike Lamb hit a weak grounder to first basemen Aaron Bates, who threw wide of Tazawa covering the bag allowing Reyes to score easily.
The Herd manufactured what would be the winning run in the sixth inning. Wilson Valdez doubled to right to leadoff the frame and moved the third on a perfect sacrifice bunt by Reyes. Jesus Feliciano followed with a sharp grounder down the first base line that scored Valdez and put the Herd in front 2-0.
Figueroa has dominated the Paw Sox this season. In two previous starts, Figueroa has thrown 15 innings, allowing just one run on five hits and 13 strikeouts.
Pawtucket manufactured an unearned run against Figueroa in the seventh. Chris Duncan hit a leadoff single and moved to second on a pass ball. Two soft grounders to the right side of the infield brought Duncan around and cut the Bisons lead in half, 2-1.
Jon Switzer earned his second save of the season and got some help from his second basemen, Reyes, who took away a base hit with a diving stop and throw that would have put runners on first and third with nobody out.
Figueroa matched a season high in innings pitched and strikeouts on Tuesday. He now has won seven of his last eight decisions and thrown 10 consecutive quality starts
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