The Tacoma Rainiers have hit the most home runs, by far, in the Pacific Coast League this season. Salt Lake Buzz right-hander Brett Roberts has surrendered the most homers in the PCL this year.
So when Roberts faced the Rainiers Monday night at Franklin Quest Field, it only stood to reason that the long ball would be the difference.It wasn't.
Instead, the play of the game came on a short ball - a Tacoma bunt attempt that rolled foul in the ninth inning, allowing the Buzz to survive with a 5-4 victory.
The Buzz improved to 24-21 with the victory while the Rainiers fell to 25-10.
Salt Lake held a one-run lead entering the ninth when Tacoma's Julio Peguero and Manny Martinez each singled off Buzz reliever Mike Trombley. Tacoma left fielder Alex Diaz, in an attempt to sacrifice the runners to second and third, laid down a near-perfect bunt to the left side of the infield. It appeared all three Rainiers would be safe with no outs. Instead, the ball rolled just foul, wide of the third-base line.
"It looked like the ball had stopped fair (on the bunt)," said Rainiers manager Dave Myers, who had a clear view of the play from his position as the third-base coach. "But then the ball just took one more turn and rolled maybe one-quarter inch foul. I've never seen anything like it."
So instead of having no outs and the bases loaded, Alex Diaz struck out. After Eddy Diaz reached base on a Buzz fielding error, loading the bases, Tacoma first baseman Greg Pirkl grounded into a double play to end the game.
"We had to make it interesting, didn't we," said Buzz manager Phil Roof, whose team had blown leads to lose four of six games entering Monday's contest. "I thought to myself, `this can't be happening to us again' . . . (Diaz's bunt rolling foul) was the break we needed."
Both teams blew numerous scoring opportunities. Salt Lake had 16 hits on the night and stranded 12 baserunners - including four at third base. Tacoma had 12 hits, left nine runners aboard and hit into three double plays.
Buzz catcher Damian Miller had a big night, going 4-for-4 with a pair of doubles and an RBI, while right fielder Chris Latham was 3-for-3 and drove in a run.
The Rainiers added two homers to their season total (now up to 60), but both were solo shots. Catcher Chris Widger hit his seventh of the year in the fifth, while James Bonnici slugged his league-leading 13th homer in the eighth.
"It was a good ball game," said Myers. "There were 28 hits and a lot of action, but both teams played solid defense to keep it to just a 5-4 game.
We played hard and hit the ball well, but we just didn't catch a break when we needed it."
Roberts (4-3) pitched seven strong innings to earn the win for Salt Lake, his fourth victory in a row after an 0-3 start. Trombley picked up his seventh save of the year.
BUZZ BRIEFS - The Rainiers and Buzz will play the second game of their four-game set tonight at 7. Tacoma right-hander Salomon Torres (2-4, 7.74 ERA) is scheduled to pitch against Salt Lake lefty Travis Miller (3-3, 4.50 ERA) . . . . Salt Lake continues to lead the league in average attendance, but not by nearly as wide of a margin as it did during the previous two seasons. An average of 7,298 fans have been to each Buzz game this year. The Edmonton Trappers are second in the league with a 6,991 attendance average.