Matt Brown, after a torrid spring training where he just missed making the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim roster, had a rough first month of the season offensively for the Salt Lake Bees.
But now there's some bad news for Pacific Coast League pitchers. Brown is heating up — as are many of his Bees teammates.
Brown ripped a three-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth on Thursday night at Spring Mobile Ballpark to give Salt Lake an 8-5 victory over the Omaha Royals.
"I missed a couple of good pitches to hit, so I was just trying to put the ball into play," said Brown, a PCL All-Star and USA Olympian last season. "Luckily I hit one hard. It was a slow start for me this season, so this feels good to finally feel like I'm where I need to be."
The Bees, who have averaged better than 11 runs per game in their current series, are now 22-12 overall, which is the best record in the PCL. Omaha, losers of all three games in the series so far, fell to 17-17.
Brown is still just hitting .238 on the year, but his batting average has gone up dramatically in recent days after falling below the .200 mark.
"That's good for Brownie," said Bees manager Bobby Mitchell of the game-winning homer. "He's struggled, but he's starting to come out of it."
Bees catcher Ryan Budde, who has been a workhorse during the series with Bobby Wilson now with the parent Angels, hit a solo homer in the bottom of the seventh to break a 3-3 tie.
In the eighth Sean Rodriguez doubled and then scored on a Gary Patchett single to give the Bees a 5-3 lead.
But the Royals scored a pair of runs in the top of the ninth — including the game-tying run with two outs — off of Salt Lake reliever Kevin Jepsen.
Terry Evans and Chris Petttit both singled to open the ninth inning, setting the table for Brown's blast.
Tonight former Kearns High star Brandon Duckworth is scheduled to start for the Royals against Salt Lake's Dan Denham. Duckworth, who is 2-1 on the year with a 4.20 ERA, will try to help Omaha avoid being swept on their lone trip to Salt Lake this season.
BEES WAX: With the Angels activating starting pitcher Ervin Santana, they sent reliever Rafael Rodriguez back to the Bees on Thursday. Rodriguez made six appearances for the Angels, going 0-0 with a 4.91 ERA. To make room for Rodriguez on the Bees roster, pitcher Anthony Ortega was placed on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation. . . . The Bees will wear pink jerseys for tonight's game for breast cancer awareness. . . . Salt Lake pitchers have struck out 185 opposing batters this season — fewest in the PCL. . . . Attendance on Thursday was 5,144.