Scoring runs may have been a problem for the Salt Lake Bees of late, but it wasn't Saturday night at Franklin Covey Field against the Sacramento River Cats.
The Bees plated a dozen runs one shy of their season high on 16 hits in the battle between the two teams with the best records in the Pacific Coast League to win 12-5.
"It was nice to see because we've really struggled to score runs and get hits with men on base," Bees manager Bobby Mitchell said. "They just came out tonight and did a good job swinging the bats against a good team."
Salt Lake, now on a modest two-game winning streak following a season-worst five-game losing streak, improved to 46-29 to maintain their league-best record. Sacramento, the PCL's Pacific Southern Division leaders, fell to 45-31.
Had the River Cats won, they would have passed Salt Lake for the league's best record. The Bees, owners of the PCL's best mark all season after opening the year 24-2, have gone just 22-27 since then.
After Saturday's offensive explosion, Mitchell hopes his team can get back on a roll.
"It snowballs in baseball," Mitchell said. "When people are hitting, everybody seems to be hitting. When people are not hitting, everybody seems to struggle because they start putting too much pressure on themselves to pick everybody else up. Tonight, everybody did a good job swinging the bats."
The Bees led just 4-3 entering the bottom of the fifth when they broke the game wide open with seven runs off River Cats reliever Jay Marshall. Salt Lake shortstop Gary Patchett, the team's No. 9 hitter, had the big blow with a three-run blast to left.
"I was just trying to get the bat on the ball," Patchett said. "When I hit it, initially, I was just hoping to get it into the air to get a sacrifice fly, but it went out."
Adam Pavkovich hit his 10th homer of the season for Salt Lake, while Freddy Sandoval added a solo shot of his own, his seventh of the year. Brandon Wood drove in three runs for the Bees, while Matt Brown added a pair.
Bees starter Giancarlo Alvarado earned his fifth victory of the season, while River Cats starter Lenny DiNardo, who went only 1-2/3 innings, was the loser.
Sacramento's best pitcher for the game wasn't even a pitcher, by trade. Justin Knoedler, normally a catcher, entered the game in the seventh inning as the River Cats were well behind and their manager, Todd Steverson, was conserving his bullpen resources. Knoedler looked good in his first pitching appearance since 2001, getting six straight outs including a pair of strikeouts.
The second game of the four-game set will be today at 2 p.m. The Bees will send Nick Adenhart (5-6, 4.66 ERA) to the mound to face River Cats lefty Dan Meyer (6-5, 5.07 ERA). The game will be televised locally on Ch. 14.
BEELINES: Pitcher David Austen was placed on the disabled list with a right groin strain on Saturday. Meanwhile, Bees catcher Ryan Budde was activated off the DL, where he had been since May 30 with a right forearm strain ... Salt Lake has now had 90 transactions so far this season. By comparison, the team had only 51 at this time a year ago. ... The Bees are now 37-1 when leading after seven innings ... The "Famous Chicken" was at the game, entertaining the 10,714 fans in attendance.