SALT LAKE CITY — Tied at eight runs apiece heading into the ninth inning it was anyone’s game Sunday afternoon at Smith’s Ballpark. The Bees, having already overcome a deficit of five runs, were confident they could pull out the victory for the series sweep. Iowa had other plans, however.
Stephen Bruno and John Andreoli combined to drive in three runs in the top of the ninth, and Pierce Johnson held off a late Salt Lake rally in the bottom of the inning, as the Cubs defeated the Bees 11-10.
Iowa was led by Andreoli, Chesny Young and Bijan Rademacher, who each drove in a pair of runs, while the Bees were paced by Matt Williams, who finished 3-for-5 with two runs scored and three RBIs.
OOF: Things did not go well for Luis Diaz, in this his fourth start of the season. A native of Valencia, Venezuela, Diaz came into the contest with 1-2 record and a less than stellar 7.07 ERA. In hindsight, those numbers may be foreshadowed his Sunday performance. The right-handed pitcher gave up five runs on four hits in the first inning alone, a line made all the worse by two batters hit by errant pitches.
Things did calm down for Diaz after the initial Cubs barrage. Through the next five innings, Diaz held Iowa to just one run on two hits, while striking out three. He also secured himself an ignominious place in Bees history. In the fifth inning, the starting pitcher plunked his third batter of the game, a feat that only seven Bees pitchers have pulled off in franchise history.
This season, Diaz has given up 19 runs on 31 hits in 20 innings pitched. On the bright side, he has struck out 19 opponents, good for fifth best among Salt Lake pitchers.
VENEZUELAN VANGUARD: Diaz isn’t the only Venezuelan on the Bees roster. In fact, only Californians outnumber natives of the South American nation. Catcher Carlos Perez, one of four Venezuelans to call Salt Lake home, got the start behind the plate Sunday. Perez has played in 14 games this season, where he has proven his worth as a hitter. The 26-year-old has the fourth-best batting average on the Bees, .327, and has driven in 13 RBIs. He was the first Bee to record a hit Sunday, a first-inning single. Unfortunately, Perez was knocked out of the game with an injury incurred on an attempted steal of second base.
In addition to Diaz and Perez, relief pitchers Vicente Campos and Eduardo Paredes both call Venezuela home. Campos has appeared in three games this season and gone 0-1 with an 8.71 ERA. Paredes has been a bit better, appearing in four games and boasting a 1.13 ERA.
SUPER SUB: After Perez pulled up lame the Bees turned to Tony Sanchez to man the catcher position, the night after the Miami, Florida native caught for 11 innings. Sanchez didn’t miss a beat, however, and scored the Bees first run of the afternoon as a pinch runner. He finished the game 2-for-3 with a run and two RBIs, including a clutch eighth inning double that knotted the score at eight runs apiece.
“That was good to see. He was due for a game like that,” said Bees manager Keith Johnson. “For (Tony) to come in and do what that at the plate, and behind it as well. I was really pleased to see that for him.”
Cubs - 11
Bees - 10
In short: The teams combined for 21 runs on 26 hits in the series finale and the Cubs held off a late Bees rally for the victory.
Up Next: Salt Lake LHP Nate Smith (1-0, 0.00) at New Orleans LHP Justin Nicolino (1-3, 4.46), Monday, 6:05 p.m.