It's no secret the Salt Lake Buzz bullpen has been shaky, at best, the past couple of weeks. So you can imagine how Buzz manager Phil Roof felt when Monday night's starter, LaTroy Hawkins, was ejected from the game against the Vancouver Canadians in the top of the second inning.
"I certainly didn't want to get to the bullpen that quick," Roof admitted.But a trio of Buzz relievers - Phil Stidham, Kevin Legault and Mike Trombley - actually provided relief this time as Salt Lake escaped with a 5-4 Memorial Day victory at Franklin Quest Field.
"We've been struggling lately, so this was a big win for us," said Buzz second baseman Brian Raabe, who drove in three of the Buzz runs. "Maybe this will get us back on the right track."
Salt Lake is now 27-25 on the year, while Vancouver fell to 28-19. The Buzz traveled to Tacoma today where they begin a four-game series against the Rainiers tonight.
The umpiring crew seemed to be out to send a message Monday after a total of five batters were hit by pitches Sunday when the two clubs met. In Salt Lake's half of the first inning Monday, third baseman Todd Walker - who came to the plate immediately after a two-run homer by Raabe - was hit in the leg by a Jason Dickson pitch.
In the second inning, after Hawkins retired the first two Canadians, he threw an low inside pitch that first baseman Chris Pritchett was barely able to avoid. Pritchett then doubled, bringing up Vancouver catcher Chris Turner. When a 2-0 Hawkins pitch went high and behind Turner, home plate umpire Jeff Nelson immediately ejected the Buzz starter for allegedly attempting to throw a bean ball.
"We weren't throwing at them," said Roof. "Hawk just slipped on that pitch."
An irate Hawkins and the entire Buzz coaching staff protested the ejection, but to no avail. Thus, the Buzz bullpen was called upon early.
"It might have fired us up a little bit when we lost Hawkins," said Roof.
Stidham, who entered the game with a 15.00 earned run average, gave up just two earned runs (three total) in 31/3 innings of relief to earn the victory. Legault, who had an 8.28 ERA, hurled 22/3 scoreless innings. Trombley finished the job to pick up his ninth save of the season.
"The real story tonight was how our relief pitchers came through," said Raabe. "Those guys shut the door on them."
Raabe, meanwhile, had another big night. His first-inning homer gave him seven for the season, which is a career season high - and it's not even June. He is now third in the PCL in batting average (.357), first in doubles and has not committed a single fielding error, an amazing feat considering he alternates playing error-prone positions second, third and shortstop.
BUZZ BRIEFS: Tonight RHP Scott Klingenbeck (3-3, 4.35 ERA) is scheduled to start against Tacoma's Tim Harrikala (4-4, 4.48 ERA) . . . The Buzz will be back at Franklin Quest Field Saturday to begin an eight-game homestand. Believe it or not, it will be the final Buzz homestand of the first-half of the season. The PCL teams will start over with 0-0 records June 17 when the second half of the season begins . . . Buzz teammates Walker and Kevin Reimer are tied for fourth in the league in homers with 10 each. Walker's 40 RBIs puts him second in the PCL in that category.