The Salt Lake Bees have won three consecutive PCL Northern Division titles, but their hopes for a fourth straight division crown seem to be slipping away on a near nightly basis now.
The Bees' 3-2 loss to the Memphis Redbirds on Wednesday night at Spring Mobile Ballpark dropped them to 55-57. Salt Lake is now five games behind Colorado Springs with just 32 remaining.
Bees manager Bobby Mitchell isn't about to concede the division crown just yet, but he knows his team has its work cut out for it.
"We've just got to play better and take care of business," said Mitchell. "If (Colorado Springs) plays .500 ball, we've got to play much better than .500 to catch them. But that's what we are going to strive to do. Right now, we're playing below .500 ball, so it will be a big task to try to get it going."
Salt Lake has now lost 12 of their past 17 games. The Bees are two games under .500 for the first time this season.
Salt Lake got a solid pitching performance from starter Brad Knox and a trio of relievers but couldn't get the big hit off Memphis starter P.J. Walters when they needed it.
"It's the same old story. We just can't string hits together," said Mitchell. "It's been like that all year. ... Our pitching was fine. If you give up three runs, you should win."
The Bees tied the game 1-1 in the third on an RBI single by Ryan Budde and pulled to within one on a run-scoring Chris Pettit hit in the seventh. But back-to-back warning-track outs to center in eighth with a runner aboard weren't quite deep enough to give Salt Lake a come-from-behind victory.
Perhaps a bright side for the Bees is that they have recently gotten some offensive reinforcements from the parent Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Infielders Brandon Wood and Sean Rodriguez and catcher Bobby Wilson are back in Salt Lake after recent stints in the majors. All three have shown in the past the ability to hit for both average and power at the triple-A level.
The same two teams will play the second game of their four-game set tonight at 7. Salt Lake's Brad Salmon (4-3, 5.09 ERA) is scheduled to start against Memphis' Mitchell Boggs (6-4, 4.29).
BEES WAX: The game's starting time was delayed by 15 minutes to a storm that blew through the Salt Lake Valley on Wednesday evening . ... Sean O'Sullivan, who was called up by the parent Angels to pitch in Chicago on Wednesday, was named the PCL's pitcher of the week following his no-hitter in Sacramento. ... Infielder Luis Figueroa's return to the Bees was short-lived. He returned from the disabled list to play in three games before spraining his right ankle in a game against the Las Vegas 51s. He's been placed back on the disabled list. To take Figueroa's place, infielder Hainley Statia has been promoted from double-A Arkansas.