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Near brawl highlights Buzz misery

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It's rare that the bottom of the ninth inning in a 16-2 rout gets interesting. But the final frame of Sunday afternoon's game between the Tucson Sidewinders and the Salt Lake Buzz was an exception when Tucson reliever Jeff Andrews went headhunting despite his team's huge lead, clearing the benches for a near-brawl.

It was about the only moment of excitement for the Franklin Covey faithful, who endured the Buzz's worst home loss of the season, characterized by a horrible outing by starting pitcher Mike Romano, who gave up nine runs in a measly 1 1/3 innings, and a pathetic showing by the Pacific Coast League's leading offense.

With Tucson two outs away from wrapping up an embarrassingly easy win over the Buzz, Andrews decided to get some retaliation for an earlier beaning of his teammate Alex Cabrera. Facing John Barnes, Andrews threw his first pitch about three feet behind the PCL's leading batter. After Barnes gave Andrews a nasty look and climbed back into the batter's box, Andrews threw another pitch behind the Buzz centerfielder, sending Barnes' teammate Brian Buchanan sprinting from the dugout and eventually clearing both benches. Had it not been for a quick response and some nifty mediating by umpire Alex Rea's crew — not to mention the wall of Tucson players Andrews hid behind — the pushing and name-calling could have easily escalated into uppercuts and haymakers.

Andrews was tossed for the incident, and David Evans got the final two outs to end the Buzz's misery. Besides being about the only thing the 5,708 fans had to cheer about, the brouhaha highlighted two rules of baseball: There's always tomorrow, and it's a bad idea to throw sand in your opponent's eyes when they can hit you with 90-mile-per-hour fastballs.

Salt Lake manager Phil Roof expounded on the first of those rules, optimistically observing that after stifling Tucson in the first two games of the series, his squad was due for a poor outing. "It's an off day, that's all you can say," Roof said. "You have three or four of these, but the great thing about this game is that there is always tomorrow."

The other rule — the one about being a poor sport — was brought up when Cabrera came to the plate in the top of the sixth with his team ahead 12-0. Facing Buzz pitcher David Hooten, Cabrera broke traditional protocol and swung at a 3-0 pitch, smacking the ball into centerfield for a double.

"When you're killing an opponent, you don't want to rub it in," Roof said. "That"s just how you play the game. (The Sidewinders) didn't understand the game. Now they understand the game." Salt Lake pitcher Gus Gandarillas let Cabrera know the next time he came to the plate that the Buzz didn't appreciate the perceived lack of respect and sportsmanship by connecting with Cabrera's hip with a fastball. It was that hit — Cabrera's second of the game — that precipitated the ninth inning incident.

"He was just retaliating," Barnes said of Andrews. But, Barnes added, if Cabrera hadn't been so gauche, the Buzz simply would have suffered a rout rather than insult to injury.

Tucson and Salt Lake finish off the four-game series Monday night.