Despite recent success on the road, there's no place like home for the streaking Salt Lake Buzz.
The PCL Northern Division frontrunners increased their lead to five games (when Edmonton lost to Colorado Springs) and reduced their magic number to 11 Saturday, by opening their final regular season homestand with a 5-2 victory over the Phoenix Firebirds Saturday at Franklin Quest Field."We've played well on the road and well the last homestand," said Salt Lake manager Phil Roof. "This is crunch time. We're in a pennant race."
The victory, Salt Lake's seventh straight at home and third overall, improved the Buzz record to 33-24 in the second half and a franchise-best 13 games over .500 (71-58) on the year.
"We've been swinging the bat. We've had a lot of guys get big hits," said Roof who also credited his pitching staff. "When you keep the competition to a low number of runs, it's easy."
However, this tilt was not without its share of drama. Trailing 5-2 with two outs and the bases loaded in the ninth inning, former Buzzman Dave McCarty stepped to the plate. Fortunately for the Buzz, he flew out to shallow right field to end the game.
"A lot of things were on my mind," said Roof. "The most important thing was getting an out."
Mission accomplished: Buzz win.
Trailing 2-1 in the fifth inning, Salt Lake took the lead for good after an RBI double by Denny Hocking and a run-scoring single by Brian Raabe. Patrick Lennon added a solo homer in the sixth before the Buzz added an insurance run in the eighth.
"If I can keep them from scoring, I know we can score," said starter LaTroy Hawkins, who struck out five and allowed just two runs in 62/3 innings of work.
Salt Lake recorded 11 hits in the contest.
BUZZ BRIEFS - Following the win, Buzz players managed to reach the clubhouse in time to see the Mike Tyson fight . . . Saturday's crowd (13,108) was the fourth largest of the year . . . Riccardo Ingram's 14-game hitting streak was snapped after he went 0-for-4 . . . Reports that San Francisco Giants third baseman Matt Williams, completing rehabilitation for a broken foot, might play with Phoenix Saturday proved unfounded - he was activated by the big league club earlier in the day . . . The series continues this afternoon at 5 p.m. with Marc Barcelo (8-10) slated to start for the Buzz and Steve Bourgeois (1-1) getting the call for Phoenix . . . Ex-Salt Lake slugger Bernardo Brito has hit 10 homers and knocked in 41 runs since joining Japan's Nippon Ham Fighters earlier this summer.