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Stingers to see their share of division foes down stretch

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There's nothing Mickey Mouse or Goofy about Salt Lake's first doubleheader sweep in more than three years. Tuesday's victories over Las Vegas provided a welcome shot in the arm as the Stingers approach their annual Disney Weekend at Franklin Covey Field.

"No question. It's been such a battle for a couple of weeks now, but we battled through it," manager Mike Brumley said. "It's encouraging. We needed something."

Prior to the 5-4 and 6-3 victories, Salt Lake had prevailed in just one of its previous 10 games. The stretch included a franchise-record-tying six straight setbacks.

The slide followed the Stingers' first and only stint above the .500 mark this season. They were 34-33 after a 5-1 victory at Fresno on June 13 — a significant accomplishment considering the team fell nine games under the dip twice early in the season.

Now, at 37-42, Salt Lake is looking for another upward climb. And this time, the schedule will be more accommodating. After playing 32 of their first 79 games against the two top teams (Sacramento and Las Vegas) in the Pacific Coast League, the Stingers enter a season-ending stretch slanted heavily toward division play.

Tonight's series opener with Portland is the first of 37 meetings against PCL North foes over the final 65 games of the season. It'll have a major impact, obviously, on the pennant race. Just seven games separate Portland, Edmonton, Salt Lake and Tacoma.

"If we play well within our division we'll control our own destiny," said Brumley, who believes the chase will really pick up steam by next month's all-star break (July 14-16).

BEE LINES: The Stingers did not play Wednesday . . . Salt Lake RHP Matt Hensley (3-8, 6.16 ERA) and Portland LHP Mike Bynum (4-2, 4.47 ERA) are tonight's scheduled starters. Game time is 7 p.m. . . . The division-leading Beavers are the top affiliate of the San Diego Padres . . . Disney Weekend with characters is set for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

E-mail: dirk@desnews.com