On a day when the Salt Lake Buzz found out they would get their ace pitcher back for their pennant race, a guy they've had all along pitched like an ace.
Buzz left-hander Benj Sampson scattered five hits, struck out eight and gave up just one run in eight innings on Sunday at Franklin Quest Field. He earned his ninth win of the season by leading the Buzz to a 6-3 victory over the Calgary Cannons. The win, combined with Fresno's loss to Colorado Springs on Sunday, puts the Buzz one-half game ahead of the Grizzlies in the PCL Southern Division standings.Sampson's performance was particularly clutch since the Buzz had dropped both games of a doubleheader on Saturday to fall out of first place in the division.
"During the last six or seven weeks we've always bounced back the next day after we've gotten beat," said Buzz manager Phil Roof. "We needed a big effort out of Benj and we got it. He came out and put us back on a winning way and that was impressive . . . . It just shows the character and makeup he has."
The Buzz also received a major reinforcement on Sunday. Lefty Travis Baptist, who has been up with the parent Minnesota Twins, has returned to the Buzz. Baptist was 8-4 with a team-best 3.08 ERA for the Buzz when he was called up. Players have 72 hours to report when getting sent from majors back to the minors, but Baptist isn't using his three days and the Buzz couldn't be happier about it. He was in Utah by Sunday night and is scheduled to pitch the second game of tonight's doubleheader against the Cannons at Franklin Covey.
"We need (Baptist's) leadership and pitching savvy," said Roof. "He can come in here and give us a big lift. But I hope he doesn't come back with disappointment that he didn't get a fair shake up there (with the Twins). Hopefully he'll come back, get two or three wins for us and go back up there on Sept. 7 or whenever our season ends."
The Buzz jumped out on the Cannons early. A home run by Scott Stahoviak in the second inning gave Salt Lake the early lead they would never relinquish. The Buzz had a big third inning, scoring four runs on four hits with the big blast being a tape-measure homer by right fielder Brian Buchanan to take a 6-1 lead.
"The big boys did their thing," said Roof of Stahoviak and Buchanan.
Salt Lake managed only one base hit after the third inning - and it was an infield single - but Sampson made sure they had more than enough runs to win. He improved to 9-6 on the season with his longest outing of the year. He surrendered only one hit in the final five innings he pitched, leaving after eight full innings with a 6-1 lead.
The Cannons made it interesting in the ninth inning, however. Buzz reliever Chris Cumberland gave up a single, a double, a walk and another double to the first four batters he faced. Calgary cut the gap to 6-3 and had runners at second and third with none out in the ninth. But Cumberland settled down to retire the next three hitters to preserve the victory.
In other Buzz news, first baseman Chad Rupp, the team leader in RBI with 89, has been placed on the disabled list due to an injury to his lower rib cage. He will be out of action at least until next Sunday.