SALT LAKE CITY — Every once in awhile during a 144-game Triple-A baseball season there is an ending to a game that is truly straight out of Hollywood.
Monday night at Spring Mobile Ballpark featured one of those finishes.
The Salt Lake Bees, trailing by two runs to the New Orleans Zephyrs in the bottom of the 10th inning with two-outs and two runners on base, were down to their final strike. Shortstop Luis Figueroa has zero balls and two strikes on him. He fouled a pitch back and the count remained 0-2.
But then Figueroa, more of a contact than power hitter, drilled the next pitch to the berm over the right-field fence giving the Bees a come-from-behind 6-5 victory. With his teammates rushing to home plate to celebrate his walk-off blast with him, Figueroa motioned for them to move away from home plate. He slid into it.
But that's just the start of the made-for-TV-like story. Figueroa couldn't even stick around for a post-game interview because he had one hour to catch a flight. He was headed home to his native Puerto Rico to be with his gravely-ill grandfather.
"It was almost seemed like divine intervention," said Bees manager Bobby Mitchell. "I mean, how many home runs has (Figueroa) hit all year? Not very many. But he picked a great time to do it."
For the record, Figueroa had just four homers — in 366 at bats this season — before his 10th inning blast.
The victory means the Bees are now just 1.5 games behind the PCL Pacific North Division-leading Tacoma Rainiers. Tacoma, which doesn't play against Salt Lake again this year, seems to be falling apart, having lost five consecutive games. At one point last month Salt Lake was nine games behind Tacoma, but now the final weeks of the season look like they will be interesting. The Bees, which ended their own two-game skid with the victory on Monday, improved to 60-57.
Prior to Figueroa's heroics, it was Bees center fielder Terry Evans who was the bright spot offensively.
New Orleans scored first on a solo homer by Scott Cousins off Bees starter Fernando Rodriguez in the first.
But Evans got the Bees off to a good start with a double to lead-off the bottom of the first. He later scored on a Michael Ryan single to knot the game, 1-1.
Evans was also part of a rally in the second when the Bees scored a pair of runs to take a 3-1 lead. He singled and scored one of the runs.
The Zephyrs scored a pair of runs in the fourth to knot the game and then neither team was able to score again until the 10th. The Zephyrs led a golden opportunity get away in the seventh with the bases loaded and one out, but Los Angeles Angels reliever Jason Bulger, who is on rehab assignment with the Bees, was able to pitch out of the jam.
The score remained 3-3 through the regulation nine innings, but the Zephyrs scored two in the top of the 10th off Bees reliever Bobby Mosebach — setting up Figueroa's blast.
The third game of the four-game set will be played tonight. The Bees are scheduled to start Amalio Diaz (3-4, 4.89 ERA) against the Zephyrs' Tom Mastny (4-2, 2.88).
BEES WAX: Bees catcher Hank Conger extended his season-long hitting streak to eight games with a single in the fifth inning. First baseman Mark Trumbo, meanwhile, saw his 20-game home streak of reaching base successfully at least once per game come to an end. ... Attendance on Monday night was 8,393.