SALT LAKE CITY — The Bees and Rainiers put on a classic PCL game Thursday night at Smith’s Ballpark. In a contest that featured 11 total pitchers, the two clubs combined to score 20 runs on 27 hits in the Bees' 11-9 victory.
Salt Lake overcame multiple deficits, thanks to a seven-run second inning and a four-run seventh. It was in the later frame that the Bees took the lead for good on a Sherman Johnson RBI single.
“The one thing our club has done, since the beginning of the year, which has helped us into first place in the division, is they pass the baton,” said Bees manager Keith Johnson. “In both (the second and seventh) innings we just kept hitting the ball up the middle. They just took what was given to them. It was good to see our guys play a little free again. They just went out and played baseball.”
All but one Bee, Michael Hermosillo, found their way into the hit column, led by Eric Young Jr. and Carlos Perez, with three hits apiece. David Fletcher was excellent as well, driving in three RBIs and scoring the game-winning run.
WEST ORANGE WARRIOR: Nolan Fontana had himself a night, at least as far as the long ball is concerned. The Florida Gator drilled a homer to right field, his 10th blast of the season, to start the Bees' explosive second inning. With 10 homers, Fontana moves into third place on the Bees roster, trailing only Cesar Puello and Kaleb Cowart, both of whom are currently with the Angels.
The homer continued a Salt Lake streak of long ball usage, a rarity when its comes to the small ball centric Bees. With 89 homers this season, the Bees are the worst home run hitting team in the PCL, and yet the club has hit a homer in each of the past six games.
BULLPEN BARRAGE: It was bullpen night at Smith’s Ballpark, which meant a veritable platoon of relief pitchers toed the rubber for the Bees. Drew Gagnon got the start, his 10th this season. Things did not go swimmingly for the big righty to start the contest, as he walked three consecutive Rainiers in the top of the first inning. One of those free passes gifted Taylor Motter and Tacoma a run. He eventually settled down, and pitched three total innings, giving up three runs on three hits.
Gagnon was succeeded by Adam Hofacket, who did not give a good impression of himself either. The reliever gave up three runs and four hits in a little over an inning. Jose Alvarez, Manny Banuelos, Luis Diaz and Jason Gurka each had a turn on the mound, with the foursome providing just enough pitching to help the Bees eek out the victory.
TACOMA TURNSTILE: With their major league affiliate, the Seattle Mariners, locked in the race for one of the American League's two wildcard spots, the Rainiers were given a mandate of sorts. No Tacoma pitcher would pitch more than 50 pitches, give or take a few, from now until the end of the season. The strategy, implemented to create long-outing relief pitchers, was in full effect Thursday.
The Rainiers sent out five hurlers, starting with Tyler Cloyd. Most of the relievers performed their job to perfection, save for Cloyd and Ernesto Frieri, who gave up 10 of the 11 Bees runs.
Bees — 11
Rainiers — 9
In short: The Bees scored 11 runs (in just two innings) on 15 hits in late-season victory.
Up next: Tacoma TBA at Salt Lake, Daniel Wright (6-8, 7.25 ERA), Friday, 6:35 p.m.