You've heard it before: When things are going bad for a team, the easiest thing to do is find a variety of ways to lose.
Saturday night, the Salt Lake Stingers blew a six-run lead in the ninth inning before ultimately losing in 10, 9-6, to the Tucson Sidewinders at Franklin Covey Field.
And it all happened so suddenly. There the Stingers were, sailing along behind starter Chris Bootcheck, who entered the ninth having allowed just five hits and zero runs. He got one out in the ninth, making this the longest start by a Stinger this season, but a single, walk and two-run triple forced manager Mike Brumley to go to his bullpen.
Problem was, Brumley explained later, he came into the game with a tired bullpen. The only guys available were Jason Cox, an emergency call-up who last season threw for the Provo Angels; Cameron Esslinger, who had an ERA of 9.28; and Scott Dunn, a hurler he wasn't eager to use because he'd thrown a lot lately.
So Brumley called on Cox to make his first Triple-A appearance, and he got the first hitter to loft a sacrifice fly, making it 6-3 with two outs and nobody on base.
Cox then walked a batter and gave up a screaming double, and Brumley had seen enough. He brought in Dunn, who has pitched well this season, but Dunn gave up a walk and a triple to Quinton McCracken that tied the score.
The walk was the killer. Sidewinder batter Brian Barden, a .202 hitter, got behind in the count 0-2 but fouled off several balls while working the base on balls.
Dunn then got out of the inning, but after the Stingers were retired 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth, the trouble continued. Dunn faced five batters in the 10th, giving up a walk, home run, double and single, and that was it for his night. He left with Salt Lake trailing 9-6. Esslinger then came on to close out the inning, but the Sidewinders had no trouble hanging on to their lead and Salt Lake lost for the fifth time in six games.
The unfortunate thing about this defeat is that it wasted a truly strong performance by Bootcheck, and good starting stints have been hard to come by for Salt Lake.
"All his pitches were working tonight," Brumley said. "It was a heckuva ballgame."
The Stingers' hitters had a decent night, too, at least early. They jumped on Sidewinder starter Jim Parque for four runs in the first inning, on consecutive singles by Casey Smith, Zach Sorensen and Casey Kotchman, followed an out later by a bases-clearing triple by Jake Thrower. Thrower then scored on a single by Brian Gordon.
Salt Lake added two more runs in the third on a single by Gordon and a homer to left by Derrick Gibson.
The series continues today at Franklin Covey Field at 2 p.m. with lefty Jake Woods, just up from Arkansas, starting for Salt Lake against Tucson lefty Mike Gosling (3-3, 6.04).
NOTES: Veteran Major Leaguer Roberto Alomar started for Tucson, down from Arizona on a rehab assignment. He went 1-for-3 with a single.