Well, that was more like it: The Salt Lake Buzz, allegedly in the playoff race and with a 12-game road trip staring them in the face, finally quit losing to the worst team in the Pacific Coast League Friday night in the last game of their second-to-last homestand at Franklin Quest Field. What's more, the Buzz left no doubt about this one, even though they were economical with the hits.
Their 10-2 win came with just nine hits, but two were homers and another was a run-scoring double. They jumped on Las Vegas starter Denny Herriger for eight runs, six earned, with just five hits. They even got a run against Herriger's relief out of a strikeout for the third out of the fourth inning!"You see something new every time you come out to the ballpark," said Buzz manager Scott Ullger, who wasn't sure he'd ever seen a run scored quite like that.
Back-to-back home runs by Bernardo Brito (a league-high 107 RBI) and Tim McIntosh in the three-run first proved to be just a door-opener for the positively Buzz-arre six-run fourth, accomplished with three hits, two of them singles, and three Stars' errors.
The errors included a dropped third strike on what should have been the third Buzz out - and it scored Jeff Carter from third for the ninth Salt Lake run of the night. Carter finished the night with three hits and a walk and two runs score, one driven in.
The inning opened with a Stars' error by third baseman Julie Bruno, putting Brito aboard second. He scored on McIntosh's double. Marty Cordova absorbed a pitch, and David McCarty walked to load the bases, and, after a fly out, Mike Durant drove in two runs with a single, and Carter singled in another score. Another error at third put Brian Raabe on ahead of Brito.
Brito swung at a third strike, but catcher Brian Deak, a late replacement in the Vegas lineup, dropped the ball. The Stars - and Brito - assumed the ball was a foul tip, and the ball was returned to pitcher Terric McFarlin. McFarlin threw toward first. The ball sailed over the first baseman's head, and Brito began running for first. McFarlin's throw went to the wall to score Carter.
Cordova led off the fifth with a single and scored on Denny Hocking's bender to left.
It had been exactly one month between homers for McIntosh, July 19-Aug. 19. "I've been thinking about it for three weeks," McIntosh said. "Whenever I get into a slump is when I'm worrying about my power production." When he steps back and thinks about it, "I know better." And his system of "checks and balances" returns.
Las Vegas's Nieves, a former training-camp teammate of Atlanta Braves' star John Smoltz, who was among the 12,877 attending the game, showed off for his ex-'mate with a second-inning homer and sixth-inning double to match McIntosh.
Starter LaTroy Hawkins gave the Buzz his usual six innings but improved some after a two-loss slump, giving up two runs on eight scattered hits while striking out two and walking none.
"I didn't think Hawk was sharp," said Ullger. "He might be a little tired. He got a lot of balls up." Scott Watkins got out of a jam in the seventh and set the side down in order in the eighth, and Bill Wissler avoided serious trouble in the ninth.
The win kept the 27-29 Buzz within two games of the first-place Calgary Cannons (29-27) as they head to Edmonton for four games starting tonight.
"If we go .500, we're going nowhere," said McIntosh.
"We're just going to have to get hot," said Ullger. "Three hitters' ballparks (Edmonton, Albuquerque and Las Vegas). We're just going to have to slug and get some pitching."