By JASON HABERMEYER
After winning a season-high six games and nine of their last 10 series, the Salt Lake Buzz ran into a brick wall losing four straight and will now face the Fresno Grizzlies in a first-place showdown tonight at Franklin Covey Field.
The Buzz lead the Grizzlies by just one game after dropping three straight to Colorado Springs this weekend and losing Thursday night’s series finale to Omaha, 14-2. Salt Lake had been in front by three games heading into the weekend; but Fresno took two of three games from Omaha to pull within just one game.
Pitching has been the problem for the Buzz, giving up an average of 10 runs a game in the losing streak. Mark Redman, who had established himself as the ace of the staff, was promoted to the Minnesota Twins on July 21. Manager Phil Roof said that the 14-2 pounding by Omaha put an end to a run that saw his team go from worst to first.
“Sooner or later it had to happen,” Roof said. “They caught one of our pitchers on an off-night and they got on him. We couldn’t get anything going — it was just one of those nights.”
Thursday’s game was marred by five Buzz errors that led to three unearned runs to help Omaha avoid a four-game sweep. Salt Lake had three errors in the fifth inning to give the Golden Spikes a 9-2 advantage and put the game out of reach. The Buzz had only four hits and were never in the game after the second inning.
“It’s difficult to shut down a team four nights in a row — especially one of the best,” Roof said. “We’re not Brooks Robinsons and we don’t like to see those errors but we’re due to have an off-game every once in a while.”
Buzz starter Gary Rath suffered his fifth loss of the season in just his second start since coming off the disabled list July 9. Rath allowed eight runs on 10 hits in just four innings. Glendon Rusch picked up the win for Omaha, holding the Buzz to two runs in the first two innings. Salt Lake did not have a hit after the fourth inning and had just one baserunner.
“Usually good pitching stops good hitting and that’s what happened tonight,” Roof said. “They re-routed themselves tonight and we tip our hat to them. Hopefully we can pick up tomorrow where we left off last night.”
The Buzz now have a record of 51-47 and will send Rath to the mound again tonight against Fresno, a team the Buzz took three of four games from two weeks ago to move into first place. It will be the final home series of the year against the Grizzlies.