Mike Busch, an Albuquerque Dukes veteran, had a few words of wisdom for Mitch Simons, the Salt Lake Buzz's young second baseman, during his first-ever AAA game.

"There's no lead big enough in the Duke Dome," Busch told Simons in the bottom of the 10th inning, as he stood on second base representing the tying run.Indeed, leads in the Albuquerque Sports Stadium, and the entire PCL for that matter, are seldom safe - a fact Buzz newcomers found out quickly during Thursday night's season opener.

But despite blowing a six-run lead in the final two regulation innings, Salt Lake managed to win, 8-7, in 10.

"That's a typical PCL game," said Buzz starting pitcher Mike Trombley.

Trombley pitched six strong innings, the Dukes played shoddy defense (three errors) and Buzz catcher Damian Miller drove in three runs on three hits, as the Buzz staked a 7-1 lead - which they held through the middle of the eighth.

Albuquerque scored a run in the bottom half of the eighth, to make it a 7-2 game entering the final scheduled inning.

"With a 7-2 lead going into the ninth, we thought the game was over," Simons said. "It obviously wasn't."

Buzz reliever Sean Gavaghan's first-ever PCL pitch was sent 415-feet the other way for a 9th inning lead-off homer to left by Busch.

It only got worse for Gavaghan.

He faced five additional Duke players, giving up four hits - including a three-run homer to Billy Lott - and hitting the other Duke hitter with a pitch. Suddenly the game was tied, 7-7.

Scott Watkins, Gavaghan's roommate, saved his friend's bacon by retiring three consecutive batters to send the game into an extra inning.

Buzz third baseman Tom Quinlan singled to open the 10th, was sacrificed to second and then sacrificed to third. Simons, who hit .319 for AA Nashville last season, came up with two outs and the go-ahead run 90 feet from home. Simons slapped a single to left to score Quinlan for the go-ahead run.

But the game still had drama left. Lott, who hit a 3-run homer to left just one inning before, came to the plate with two outs and a runner at third in the 10th. Lott took a couple of big cuts at Buzz pitcher Matt Stevens' offerings, but his bat hit nothing but air and the game was finally over.

"There's not a better way to finish a game than with a strikeout," said Stevens, who earned the save.

Watkins, who struggled to a 2-6 record with a 6.75 ERA for Salt Lake last season, earned the victory by pitching 1-1/3 scoreless innings.

"Watkins and Stevens came in for us and did an outstanding job," new Buzz pitching coach Rick Anderson said. "Their experience (in the PCL) helped them tonight."

The six Buzz pitchers who saw action Thursday took to heart Anderson's advice to "just throw strikes." Salt Lake didn't surrender a single walk in 10 innings. "That was the key," Anderson said. "If we would have had a few walks, we wouldn't have won this game."

BUZZ BRIEFS: The bottom third of the Buzz's batting order - Quinlan, Miller and shortstop Andres Duncan - had a combined eight hits (four doubles), four RBI and scored five runs . . . Designated hitter extraordinaireBernardo Brito didn't get a hit, but was hit twice. In two of his four plate appearances, the active minor league home run king was tattooed by errant Albuquerque pitches . . . The Buzz and Dukes will be at it again tonight at 7 p.m. Mike Misuraca is scheduled to pitch for Salt Lake against Albuquerque's Tom McCarthy.




Salt Lake Buzz game stories and linescores are available online right after each game ends.