SALT LAKE CITY — For the second-straight day, the Salt Lake Bees gave up one big inning to the Las Vegas 51s. This time, however, it cost them the game.
Las Vegas (70-57) won 6-3 at Spring Mobile Ballpark Sunday afternoon thanks in large part to scoring four runs in the eighth inning alone. Two walks, two sacrifice plays, and two doubles gave the 51s the edge, and pushed losing pitcher Jason Urquidez off the mound after just 1 1/3 innings.
The 51s managed one run in each of the second and sixth innings to take an early 2-0 lead, but the Bees pushed two across in the seventh to tie the score. Luis Rodriguez drove home Luis Jimenez with a ground out to first base to put Salt Lake on the board. Robbie Widlansky then hit a sacrifice fly to deep left field to score Efren Navarro.
Salt Lake managed just three hits in the game — doubles from Navarro and Drew Heid as well as a single from Roberto Lopez — while giving up seven to Las Vegas, including five for extra bases.
The up-and-down path of the game, and the entire Las Vegas series, lands in the midst of a handful of roster changes that have rocked the Bees' boat. The same thing happened to the team in the spring.
“A lot of that had to do with the number of moves we had early on,” said Bees manager Keith Johnson, whose team had a record of 24-30 and was nine games behind then first-place Tacoma at the end of May.
“We started off well, then we had all those moves, and then in the middle there was a block of time where our roster was pretty stable,” he said. “Guys got their feet underneath them a little bit, got some consistent at-bats, had a nice little rotation going with the position players; our pitchers did a nice job of pitching; we started swinging the bats well; there were some additions we had to the ballclub that helped out. It was a wealth of good things that happened for us.”
That stability allowed the Bees to wipe out the gap with Tacoma. Despite Sunday’s loss, the Bees (74-55) still hold the best record in the league and, heading into the game, had a six-game lead over the Rainiers in the Pacific Northern Conference.
“You saw a little bit of a downturn when we started losing guys again and things started happening and the roster got in flux a little bit,” said Johnson. “But, like I said, we did a good job of just playing baseball and getting ourselves to where we are, and we were able to absorb that a little bit. We haven’t been losing series. We’ve been splitting or winning them, and that’s the key to everything.”
The Bees are 11-6 for the month of August with 15 games remaining, including a four-game series at Tacoma.
Sarah Thomas earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MBA at Westminster College. She has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.