The Salt Lake Buzz, locked in the tight pennant race with Calgary and Vancouver for the PCL Northern Division second half title, have one major advantage going for them down the stretch - seven games with the Las Vegas Stars.
Only 19 games remain in the regular season and only one game separates the three Northern Division leaders. Seven of Salt Lake's games, however, come against the hapless Stars.The Buzz opened a four-game series with Las Vegas Tuesday night at Franklin Quest Field and, on cue, the Stars rolled over to give Salt Lake an easy 17-4 victory.
"(The Stars) have some good pitchers and quality hitters," Buzz manager Scott Ullger said. "I don't think Las Vegas is any worse (than the other PCL teams)."
Yeah, and Rush Limbaugh is a fan of President Clinton.
The Buzz skipper apparently doesn't want to pick on a team when it's down. Simply put, Las Vegas is brutal. The Stars are 30 games below .500 for the season (47-77), far-and-away the worst record in the PCL. Even the Stars' parent club in San Diego has a better winning percentage - and the Padres have the worst record in the major leagues.
Las Vegas tried six pitchers Tuesday, but they all met with similar results. The Buzz pounded 17 hits, received eight bases on balls and were hit by two pitches. All nine Buzz starters scored at least one run, while Scott Stahoviak, David McCarty and Denny Hocking drove in four runs apiece. Stahoviak, McCarty and Bernardo Brito all had homers, while Tim McIntosh reached base all six times he came to the plate, going 3-for-3 with three walks and three runs scored.
Stahoviak has 88 RBI for the season which moves him into the top five in the PCL along with teammates Brito (104) and McIntosh . He had four hits including a home run (his 12th on the year) and a triple.
"I've been seeing the ball well lately and luckily the ball has been falling for me," said Stahoviak, who has seven hits in the past two games. "I haven't figured out the secret of hitting or anything, but I've been doing things right and things have been going well for me."
Buzz starter Oscar Munoz (8-6) got off to a shaky start, giving up two runs on three hits and a walk in the first, but he settled down and didn't give up any additional runs during his six innings of work.
The game was tied 2-2 in the fourth when McCarty put the Buzz ahead for good with a three-run blast off losing pitcher Hilly Hathaway (2-8). The Buzz sent 11 batters to the plate and scored seven runs in the fifth to break the game wide open. Shawn Bryant pitched the final three innings of the blowout for Salt Lake.
The same two teams will go at it again tonight in a game that is being broadcast locally by KTVX-Channel 4. RHP Mike Misuraca (2-2, 5.49 ERA) is scheduled to face RHP Kerry Taylor (6-8, 5.54).
BUZZ BRIEFS - Tuesday's game was not only televised to Las Vegas, but it also went to Minnesota on the Midwest Sports Channel in place of a scheduled Twins game which was washed out, obviously, by the strike . . . Hocking broke out of a 0-for-10 slump with his four hit night Tuesday . . . Former Buzz reliever Jeff Innis is still with the Stars, but he is on the inactive list at home with his wife who recently had a baby boy . . . Buzz reliever Matt Stevens, who has been on the disabled list since Aug. 2 with a sore right elbow, has been throwing on the side and is expected to be activated in the next couple of days . . . The Buzz have just seven regular season home games remaining, the final three games of this series against Las Vegas and a four-game set to close the year Sept. 2-5 against Vancouver.