As the Salt Lake Bees head toward the final month of their 144-game regular season, pitcher Nick Green feels he's just getting warmed up.
Green earned his third straight victory with six strong innings during Salt Lake's 4-2 victory over the New Orleans Zephyrs on Monday night at Franklin Covey Field. Green needed to pitch out of jams in each of the first two innings, but he gave up just one run on seven hits with four strikeouts to improve his season record to 7-4 while dropping his earned run average to 4.86.
"I've always finished strong," said Green, who said he especially likes pitching in August. "Our pitching coach always reminds us that it's not how you start, but how you finish and I'm going to take that mentality the rest of the season."
The Bees improved to 64-45 with the win to maintain their six game lead over the Portland Beavers in the PCL's Pacific North Division.
"(Green) kept the damage to a minimum," said Bees manager Bobby Mitchell. "He gave up a few hits, but he made some good pitches to get out of jams and that's encouraging ... He did a really good job."
Green, who at 23 is one of the top pitching prospects in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim organization, has had some ups and downs during his first season at the triple-A level. But he's pleased with how he performed Monday.
"When the coach shakes your hand and you see a one on the board, that's obviously a good feeling," Green said.
As well as Green was, when he came out of the game after the top of the sixth inning the Bees trailed 1-0. New Orleans starter Nelson Figueroa had been even better than Green to that point.
But that changed in the bottom of the sixth. Bees second baseman Sean Rodriguez led off the sixth with a home run to left field to knot the score. Salt Lake followed with consecutive hits by Freddy Sandoval, Kendry Morales and Brandon Wood to knock Figueroa out of the game and give the Bees a 3-1 advantage.
The Zephyrs cut the gap to one with a run in the seventh inning off Bees reliever Henry Bonilla, but Salt Lake added an insurance run in the eighth on an RBI-single by Morales. Bees closer Jason Bulger pitched out of a jam in the ninth to earn his 12th save of the season.
The series with New Orleans and Salt Lake's eight-game homestand will conclude tonight. The Bees are scheduled to start Dustin Moseley (5-6, 5.90 ERA) against Zephyrs right-hander Claudio Vargas (4-2, 4.22). The Bees will then head out on the road, beginning an eight-game trip on Wednesday night in Omaha.BEELINES: Bees infielder Matt Brown and relief pitcher Kevin Jepsen left the team Monday to travel to North Carolina to train for the USA Olympic team. They will miss the next month of games. Their roster spots were filled by infielder Adam Morissey, who was recalled from double-A Arkansas, and pitcher David Austen, who came off the disabled list ... Brandon Wood's homer on Sunday was the 44th of his Salt Lake career. That ties him with Bernardo Brito for fourth place in the franchise's history. Nick Gourneault is the all-time leader in homers with 61 ... Attendance on Monday night was 7,222.