Salt Lake Bees reverse losing ways in front of thousands of schoolchildren at Smith's Ballpark
Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Prior to Tuesday's first pitch, a giant American flag was draped across the outfield, Utah's first lady addressed the crowd, and schoolchildren packed the Smith's Ballpark stands. In a scene that closely resembled opening day, the Salt Lake Bees welcomed more than 12,000 students for Prevention Dimensions Kids Day.
Though many of the 15,306 in attendance left before the final out was recorded, they had plenty to cheer for as the home team did its work early. The Bees plated all of their seven runs by the end of the fifth inning in a 7-4 victory over Albuquerque Tuesday afternoon.
"There's a few guys in our clubhouse that have children, so we know how it is for them," Salt Lake manager Keith Johnson said. "The earliness of the game was a little tough for us, but the guys tried their best to put on a show for the kids."
The Bees had their first four batters reach base and plated four runs in the first inning to give starting pitcher Justin Thomas a lead. He took advantage, going six innings and giving up just five hits and two runs to collect the win.
"(Thomas) has been throwing the ball better as of late," Johnson said. "He has had a couple of bumps in the road, but for the most part his last few starts have been solid for us. We've still got to do a better job of making the outs, outs. There were a couple plays out there that there were outs, but we didn't make them."
The victory was just the second win for Salt Lake in its last 16 games.
"We've been struggling lately, obviously," Thomas said. "We've had a lot of close games not go our way. It doesn't matter if you lost 10 or 12 in a row — every day you come to the ballpark you have a chance to win. That's what we are trying to do, just win them one at a time."
In the seventh inning Tuesday, the kids started heading for the exits to return to school. As the crowd grew sparse, tension on the visiting team hit a boiling point. During a meeting on the mound in the seventh inning, Albuquerque teammates Alex Guerrero and Miguel Olivo got into a heated argument, which didn't end when the inning was over and the game was briefly delayed in the top of the eighth when a fight broke out between the two in the Isotope dugout. Neither Guerrero or Olivo returned to the game.
NOTES: With his two stolen bases Tuesday, Matt Long is tied for the PCL lead. ... Prior to the game, relief pitcher and Utah native Brandon Lyon opted out of his contract with the Angels and will test free agency.
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