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Buzz drop 3rd straight to Dukes

Late rally lifts Albuquerque past reeling Salt Lake

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Dukes 10, Buzz 9

The 24th of July isn't much of a holiday in New Mexico, but the Albuquerque Dukes found a reason to celebrate Monday night anyway.

Coming up big at the plate in the ninth inning, the Dukes handed the Salt Lake Buzz their third straight loss and took the fourth game in the series, 10-9.

"We're struggling a bit right now," Buzz manager Phil Roof said. "We should win close games like this."

Salt Lake did much of what it needed to to come away with a win, the Buzz scored first, had two three-run innings, hit three home runs and were actually leading going into the Dukes final at-bat.

But then things started to go wrong.

After Albuquerque pinch hitter Dante Powell got on base on an error by Casey Blake, and Andy Ashby moved him to third with a double to left field, catcher Angel Pena gave the Dukes a one-run lead with a two-RBI double.

Buzz reliever Brent Stentz, who started the ninth, walked the last two of the five batters he would face before Roof pulled him for Gus Gandarillas.

Gandarillas got Adam Riggs to pop one up to center, and the Buzz picked off Jeff Branson as he tagged up and ran for second, but Pena scored from third to put the Dukes up 10-8. Chris Garza struck out to end the inning, but the damage was done.

The Buzz needed three pitchers to get through the ninth inning, and used five for the game.

Starter Mike Romano, pitching on just three days rest, was rocked for 13 hits and six runs in 4 2/3 innings, but Stentz took home the loss by giving up two hits and three runs in the ninth.

"We've lost our star," Roof said of his pitching staff. The Minnesota Twins called up Buzz ace J.C. Romero at the end of last week, adding some confusion to the Buzz rotation and forcing Romano into the early start.

Still, the Buzz (62-41) are 21 games over .500, and seven games ahead in the PCL North Division.

"We'll be all right," said Roof, "we've just got to settle down and get our pitching back on track," he said.

"There's no reason to panic, we've got 41 games to go, and there's enough talent here."

Salt Lake's Torii Hunter did all he could to keep the Buzz from losing, Hunter finished the game 4-for-5, with four RBI, and two runs, including a solo jack to right field in the ninth.

The Buzz have Tuesday off before starting a five-game series with the Las Vegas Stars Wednesday night at 7 at Franklin Covey Field.

After the five-gamer with the Stars, that includes a double-dip on Friday, the Buzz have only two more homestands before ending the year.