By the time the seventh-inning stretch had rolled around, most of the 7,037 fans who attended the Salt Lake Buzz season opener had left Franklin Quest Field.
It was cold. And besides that, the home team had thrown in the towel.There was no relief in sight. Not exactly an ideal atmosphere for singing "Take me out to the ball game."
Tacoma scored seven runs in the seventh and three in the eighth to defeat Salt Lake 15-5 Tuesday night. Buzz relievers surrendered 11 runs after inheriting a 5-4 lead in the fifth inning.
"That wasn't real good," understated Buzz manager Phil Roof, who said opening night jitters and the 40-degree weather each played a role in Salt Lake's lack of relief pitching. "We're better than that. First night, I guess. Those things happen."
And unfortunately for Salt Lake, most of the damage came with two outs.
The first blow came in the sixth when Jeff Berblinger knotted the score at 5-5 on an RBI double. An inning later, Tacoma also waited for two outs to begin battering the Buzz.
"They tied it and then all (heck) broke loose," Roof said. "It fell apart (in the seventh). . . . What a bad inning."
With two outs and one man on, former Buzzman Ryan Radmanovich (who was claimed by the Mariners off waivers just 10 days ago) singled in what proved to be the winning run. Tacoma, however, wasn't satisfied. The Rainiers scored six more times after loading the bases on an ensuing single and walk. Shane Monahan's base-clearing triple and Dave McCarty's RBI double followed two Tacoma runs courtesy of bases-on-balls from Buzz pitchers.
The outburst gave the Rainiers a commanding 12-5 advantage enter-ing the eighth frame, where Tacoma added three more runs on a trio of hits.
"I've seen games like that before," third-year Tacoma manager Dave Myers said. "Although you don't expect to see it on opening night."
University of Utah basketball star Andre Miller and Jamaican bobsled team captain Devon Harris threw out ceremonial first pitches as the Buzz opened a season at home for the first time in their five-year history.
Salt Lake pitcher Dan Serafini, who was making his third consecutive opening day start for the Buzz, put himself in a 2-0 hole with a throwing error in the first inning. Tacoma scored both runs when Serafini fielded a two-out grounder by Brad Seitzer and overthrew first base.
The miscue, however, was eventually redeemed. When Serafini left the game after five innings, he was in position to pick up the win with Salt Lake holding a 5-4 advantage.
Scott Stahoviak, who finished with three hits, provided most of the offense for Salt Lake. He belted a two-run double in the first inning and an RBI single in the fifth to give the Buzz their only lead.
The Rainiers had taken a 4-2 edge in the second inning when Rico Rossy and Shane Monahan each produced run-scoring hits off Serafini. Salt Lake erased the deficit on RBI singles by Jayhawk Owens and Esteban Beltre in the second and fourth innings, re-spec-tively.
The series continues tonight at 7 with Buzz RHP Ricky Bones and Rainiers LHP Andrew Lorraine as the scheduled starters.
BEE LINES: The Buzz are now 2-3 in Pacific Coast League openers . . . This was the first in an eight-game homestand for Salt Lake. After Tacoma leaves town, the Buzz open a four-game series with the Fresno Grizzlies (San Francisco Giants affiliate) on Saturday . . . The average age of Buzz players on the opening day roster is 25.8 years. Second baseman Jon Shave is the oldest and outfielder Marc Lewis the youngest . . . Of the 23 players beginning the season in Salt Lake, only 13 are products of the Minnesota Twins farm system.