When you're trying to be in a pennant race and the games are dwindling down to a precious few, is a 2-1 loss easier to take than a 5-3 loss?
It was on Thursday night against the 21-33 Las Vegas Stars in Franklin Quest Field for Salt Lake Buzz manager Scott Ullger. "We got beat. We didn't beat ourselves," he said. "Sometimes you've just gotta go, `Hey, they beat us tonight.' "Wednesday's 5-3 Buzz loss to the Stars was more a "we-beat-ourselves" game for Ullger. One of the kind, he says, "you've got to eliminate."
In Thursday's 2-1 game, Las Vegas starter Scott Chiamparino - a traveled, often-hurt 27-year-old making just his fourth start after a spring shoulder injury - had the Buzz beating his sinking fastballs into the ground at inopportune times. He wasn't overpowering, but he was controlling the game. "For the most part, he pitched great. You've got to tip your hat to him," said Ullger.
Chiamparino, in turn, tipped his hat to his fielders and to the Stars' trainer and pitching coach for helping him regain form. After numerous elbow difficulties, including a Tommy John-type reconstructive surgery, he found himself trying to come back last year with a different organization and instead working with such bad mechanics he hurt his shoulder. He was close to making the big-league San Diego Padres, Las Vegas' parent team, last spring when the poor mechanics shelved him. He finally came back, with the dedicated help of the Stars' trainer and pitching coach, a few weeks ago. Thursday was a step in the right direction for Chiamparino.
The Stars scratched out a two-run lead for Chiamparino, scoring once in the fourth and again in the sixth.
Keith Lockhart's wind-bent, line-drive triple barely eluded diving Buzz center fielder David McCarty to score Ray Holbert in the fourth. "The one Lockhart hit was perfectly placed into the wind," Ullger said. "It's just stuff you've got to deal with in baseball."
Kevin Higgins' infield hit set up the Stars' game-winner in the sixth. Higgins came home when Holbert doubled with two away. Holbert tried to stretch it to a triple but was thrown out from McCarty to Jeff Carter to Stahoviak. It was the first of two runners gunned down by the Buzz. The other was the last out of the game for Vegas, when pinch runner Billy Hall tried to go home on a double along the left-field line. A Stahoviak relay to catcher Mike Durant easily caught him.
Salt Lake also made two double plays in support of starter Jon Henry, who went 6 2/3 innings giving up eight hits and striking out four.
Against Chiamparino, the Buzz got Stahoviak to third base with two out in the first, but a broken-bat groundout ended the inning. They loaded the bases with singles by Marty Cordova and David McCarty and a hit batsman (Jeff Carter) in the fifth, but a groundout to third ended that threat for Chiamparino. They finally scored when Dan Masteller walked to lead off the seventh, went to second on Cordova's sharp infield single to third, a sacrifice bunt and a sac fly.
Chiamparino's relief, A.J. Sager, continued the groundball tactic, ending the game with a groundout and two forceouts at second in the ninth.
The Buzz and Stars continue their series tonight at 7 at Franklin Quest.