The Salt Lake Bees won their final home game of the regular season Sunday afternoon at Franklin Covey Field, downing the Tucson Sidewinders 4-1.
But, barring a complete collapse during their final nine games on the road, it wasn't the Bees' final home game of the year. Salt Lake should qualify for the playoffs for the third straight season as the PCL's Pacific North Division champs.
"We want to have more than one game back here," said Bees manager Bobby Mitchell, whose team is expected to host the third game and, if necessary, the fourth and fifth games in the best-of-5 first round of the playoffs in early September.
The Bees are now 78-57, five games ahead of second-place Tacoma. Salt Lake owns the tie-breaker against the Rainiers thanks to their season series win, too. That means that, with nine games remaining for each team, the Bees' magic number for clinching a playoff berth is four. Any combination of four Bees wins or Tacoma losses will mean the postseason for Salt Lake once again.
And, just like last season, the Bees would play the Sacramento River Cats in the first round. Sacramento, which has already clinched the Pacific South title, downed Salt Lake in the best-of-5 series in 2007 that went the distance. The River Cats then went on to win the PCL title.
The Bees start a five-game series tonight at Portland, which includes a doubleheader on Tuesday, before closing the season with four games at Tucson. While winning the title seems extremely likely, the Bees would like to do it as soon as possible.
"If we clinch soon then we can start to rest some guys," said Mitchell. "I think some of the guys are tired right now and could use some time off. We have other guys that haven't been playing that aren't tired that can continue to play." Salt Lake benefited by a strong pitching performance by Dustin Moseley on Sunday. Moseley gave up a single run on six hits in seven innings without surrendering a walk to improve to 7-9 on the year. Henry Bonilla earned the save with two scoreless innings of work.
Offensively, the Bees were led by the top of the order as lead-off hitter Brad Coon scored two runs, No. 2 hitter Chris Walker drove in a pair and No. 3 hitter Dee Brown had two hits, including a double.
Bees outfielder Terry Evans was shaken up in the first inning when he collided with second baseman Gary Patchett on a pop-up to short right. Evans came out of the game more as a precaution than anything else and he isn't expected to miss any additional playing time.
Salt Lake will start Anthony Ortega (3-0, 2.52 ERA) tonight against Portland's Josh Geer (8-8, 4.44).BEELINES: Bees closer Jason Bulger was promoted by the parent Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Sunday. First baseman Kendry Morales returned to Salt Lake from the Angels. The Bees have now had 143 transactions this season, compared with 93 last year at this time ... The Bees drew 5,421 fans for their home finale. That gave them a total of 500,780 fans for the season, marking the first time since 2000 Salt Lake has drawn more than half a million fans ... Infielder Matt Brown and relief pitcher Kevin Jepsen will join their teammates in Portland after being away from the Bees for a month as members of the bronze medal winning USA baseball team in Beijing. They are expected to be activated on Wednesday or Thursday after getting a couple of days to recover from jet lag and such.