Outfielder Kevin Pillar and relief pitcher Bobby Korecky were named to the International League's postseason all-star team today, giving the Buffalo Bisons two representatives for the first time since their 2004 Governors Cup championship season.
They're two key reasons the Bisons are one game out of the International League's wild card slot heading into tonight's home finale against Pawtucket. Be sure to read our earlier post about tonight's game -- including our annual reminder about ticket pickups on nights when a big house is expected.
(NOON UPDATE: The Toronto Blue Jays have called up Pillar to the big leagues, in a move that could potentially cripple the Bisons' playoff chances. The Jays have designated outfielder Nolan Reimold for assignment.)
Despite missing 35 games while making two trips to Toronto, Pillar is third in the IL in batting at .323 and leads the league in doubles with 39 -- second-most in the Bisons' modern era to Jhonny Peralta's 44 in 2004. He has 10 homers, team-highs of 59 RBIs and 27 stolen bases, and this year became the first player in Buffalo's modern era to put together two hitting streaks of 18 games in his Bisons career.
Pillar's 21-game streak from July 25-Aug. 14, during which he batted .384, is the longest in the league this season. He also had an 18-gamer from April 17-May 6 and was named IL Batter of the Week during each run.
Pillar hit just .226 in two stints in Toronto but it certainly seemed like he could have helped the Jays at the plate this month as their offense has struggled mightily. Why was he stuck in Buffalo? Well, the Jays certainly have been very public about wanting to help the Bisons win since they arrived here last season.
But Pillar had a highly publicized dustup with manager John Gibbons in the Jays' dugout in June that I wrote about on the Bisons' last homestand and it may have taken a little prodding for Gibbons to go for Pillar. After all, how many times are the Blue Jays going to play the up and back game with Anthony Gose and not give Pillar another look?
Korecky is Buffalo's first pitcher named an all-star in its modern IL era. The Bisons were last represented on the mound by a starter by Brian Anderson (1996), and by a reliever by closer Tony Menendez (1993). Both of those selections were in the American Association.
Korecky is 5-3 with a 2.07 ERA and 20 saves in 22 chances over 52 appearances. His 20 saves are tied for the IL lead and he leads the league in games finished (38). Korecky began his season with 17 consecutive scoreless appearances totaling 26 innings and allowed just four earned runs over his first 46 outings this season. He was also a midseason all-star and pitched in the Triple-A All-Star Game in Durham.
Buffalo's last multi-player representation on the all-star team came when Peralta was named the all-star shortstop and league MVP in '04 and was joined at DH by Ernie Young, now a member of the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame. The Bisons had no all-stars during their four-year run with the New York Mets, and Mauro Gomez's nod at DH last year broke a six-season drought that dated to 2007, when IL batting champ Ben Francisco earned an outfield slot.
You can see the IL's complete list of all-stars here. Syracuse's Stephen Souza was named the MVP and rookie of the year, Pawtucket's Anthony Renaudo (who got a no-decision here Sunday) was named the most valuable pitcher and Syracuse's Billy Gardner Jr. was named manager of the year. Former Bison Mike Hessman of Toledo was named the DH.