SALT LAKE CITY — After a three-game absence, Salt Lake Bees manager Keith Johnson was back in uniform Sunday evening.
His team welcomed him back with a 5-3 victory over Tacoma at Spring Mobile Ballpark.
“It’s kind of therapeutic to be back out here with the guys,” said Johnson, who had been away from the team to attend his father’s funeral. “Getting back here and everyone coming and saying hi, it is therapeutic.”
In stark contrast to their performance the night before, the Bees got off to a quick start Sunday, scoring five runs on five hits in the bottom of the first inning.
Trent Oeltjen and Luis Rodriguez both reached first with a base on balls, and then scored on Efren Navarro’s wild at-bat. Navarro hit a simple grounder to Tacoma first baseman Alex Liddi, who threw to shortstop Nick Franklin in an attempt to get the double play. However, Franklin pulled his foot from second base and overthrew first to miss both outs and allow both runners to head home.
The Bees followed the play with four more singles to score three more runs in the opening inning.
“The guys went up there and tried their best to put together good at-bats,” Johnson said of the early scoring sequences. Salt Lake did not score another run, but strong pitching and a solid defensive effort helped the Bees maintain the lead.
“There were other opportunities later in the game, some innings where we got the lead-off guy on and we didn’t execute with an opportunity to try to get their starter out of the ballgame,” Johnson continued. “Those are the things we have to get better at.”
The Rainiers’ first scoring sequence began when Carlos Peguero reached base with a walk in the top of the sixth. After stealing second and advancing to third on a catcher throwing error, Carlos Triunfel sent Peguero home with a ground out to third base.
Nate Tenbrink and Franklin both scored on a Triunfel double in the seventh inning to pull Tacoma within two runs, 5-3, but the Rainiers were unable to score again.
Starting pitcher Billy Buckner earned his third win of the season, striking out seven batters and giving up just one earned run in six innings on the mound.
“He competed very well today,” Johnson said of Buckner. “He got himself in trouble a couple of times, and he made the pitches he needed to make to get out of it. When it came down to it, he made pitches early and was able to continue to put up zeroes after we put up that five-spot early.”
Jeremy Bonderman started on the mound for Tacoma, giving up just three hits after battling through an ugly first inning. It was his second loss of the season.
Both teams finished with nine hits, but the Rainiers left 12 runners stranded compared to just six for Salt Lake.
The Bees host Tacoma again tonight in an evening contest, and then play a noon matinee Tuesday for the series finale.
Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
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