Even though they were beaten soundly 9-1 by Vancouver Sunday at Franklin Quest Field, the Salt Lake Buzz got just about all they wanted from the contest. The Buzz drew a nice crowd of more than 8,600 on a sunny afternoon, were able to rest their top pitchers and a few other players who were ailing, and most importantly, clinched a PCL Northern Division playoff spot.
Now it's time to finish the team's very successful initial season with tonight's finale, then prepare to head to Vancouver for the best-of-five playoff that starts Wednesday. Vancouver's win also clinched the second half championship for the Canadians, who will now host all games of the Northern Division playoff.It's not often smiles and laughter fill the clubhouse of a team that just lost an eight-run ballgame, but for Buzz manager Scott Ullger and his squad, there was still reason for celebration Sunday.
"We accomplished a goal, maybe not the way we wanted to, but we accomplished the goal by getting in (to the playoffs)," he said. "So we have a little something to celebrate."
Salt Lake entered the game in the dubious position of either having to lose a game or hope Calgary would lose in Las Vegas in order to claim a playoff berth. As it turned out, the Cannons dropped a 13-10 decision to the Stars about 45 minutes before this game ended, but by then the Canadians were up 6-1 anyway.
The Buzz drew first blood in the second when Marty Corvoda drilled a long homer just to the right of the 420-foot sign in center. The lead was short-lived, however.
In their half of the third, the Canadians scored twice as Steve Hosey walked, stole second, scored on a single by Marquis Riley, and then Riley was doubled home by P.J. Forbes. In the fourth, Eduardo Perez tripled to center and scored on a sacrifice fly by Rod Correia.
It remained 3-1 for Vancouver until the sixth, when Buzz starter Shawn Bryant got into more trouble. Forbes led off with a double, then moved to third on a single by Luis Raven. Bryant turned the ball over to Matt Stevens, whose third pitch was sent to Main Street by Perez to make it 6-1. The homer seemed to take any wind remaining out of the Buzz' sails.
Vancouver added three more in the eighth on three singles, three walks and a sacrifice fly off reliever Scott Watkins, but by then the verdict from Vegas was in. Canadian starter Mark Ratekin scattered nine hits over eight innings, and benefitted from some good defensive plays, to get the win.
Tonight's 7 p.m. contest will see Oscar Munoz take the mound for the Buzz, who will break the 700,000 mark for attendance, again adding to their new PCL season record.
Buzz in playoffs
Wednesday - S.L. at Vancouver, 8 p.m.
Thursday - S.L. at Vancouver, 8 p.m.
Friday - S.L. at Vancouver, 8 p.m.
*Saturday - S.L. at Vancouver, 8 p.m.
*Sunday - S.L. at Vancouver, 8 p.m.