WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. Nick Green of the Salt Lake Bees was pitching for the same team in the same ballpark with similar postseason pressure as 12 months earlier.
But the results were far different for Green and the Bees this time around.
Twelve months ago, Green was the hard-luck losing pitcher at Sacramento's Raley Field in Salt Lake's Game 5 loss in their best-of-five playoff series against the River Cats.
On Wednesday, however, Green earned the victory for the Bees thanks to an offensive explosion by his teammates. Salt Lake pounded a franchise playoff record 19 hits in a 13-10 victory.
It was a far cry from how the Bees have played in recent seasons in Sacramento. The River Cats entered Wednesday night's game having beaten the Bees in 14 of the last 15 times at Raley Field including all three games in the playoffs last season.
But Salt Lake infielders Matt Brown and Freddy Sandoval and catcher Bobby Wilson were simply too much for Sacramento's pitchers this time. In the first five innings alone, Brown and Sandoval had combined to go 7-for-7 with seven RBIs, six runs scored and three home runs. Wilson added three hits, including a homer and double.
It was enough to give Green plenty of breathing room, as he earned his first win over the River Cats in four tries this season.
A year ago Green, who had spent the entire regular season at Double-A Arkansas, was called up to the Bees just prior to the playoffs. And then he was thrown into the fire. His first Triple-A start was in that do-or-die Game 5 game. He pitched well, too, until he gave up a late, three-run homer in a 4-2 loss that featured strong pitching by both clubs.
Wednesday night's game was anything but a pitcher's duel, as both teams were hitting the ball hard.
And this time Green actually knew the names of his teammates.
"It's definitely different," said Green. "Last year I got called up and it was their team, it wasn't my team. I hadn't been a part of it. This year I am a part of this team. It's a different feeling and much more comfortable."
Having the Bees' bats heat up at the right time helped him feel comfortable, too. The Bees, after back-to-back homers by Brown and Sandoval in the top of the first, were ahead 2-0 before Green even took the field. Sacramento rallied to take a short-lived 3-2 lead in the second, but five runs in the third and five more in the fifth gave Green more than enough run support. He wasn't great, but he was good enough, giving up five earned runs on nine hits with three strikeouts to earn the win.
The River Cats got to Bees relievers Matt Wilhite, Chris Bootcheck and Jason Bulger to make the score close. Bulger came in with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth and walked Jeff Baisley, as the River Cats closed to within three. But Bulger then struck out Gregorio Petit to end the threat.
Game 2 of the best-of-5 series will be tonight at Raley Field. Salt Lake's top starter in recent weeks, Anthony Ortega (5-0, 2.52 ERA) will be on the mound against Sacramento's Sean Gallagher, a member of the parent Oakland A's who will be making a rehab start.The series will then head to Salt Lake for Game 3 on Friday with the fourth and fifth games, if necessary, on Saturday and Sunday.
BEELINES: Infielder Ryan Mount was promoted to the Bees from class-A Rancho Cucamonga prior to the game, but was injured in pre-game workouts and didn't see action. Mount hit .290 with 17 doubles and 16 homers in 82 games for the Quakes. ... Salt Lake's 84 wins during the regular season was the second best in franchise history. The 2000 Buzz won 90 games. ... Ten Bees who played in last year's playoff series against the River Cats are on Salt Lake's roster again this time around. In addition to Green, pitchers Henry Bonilla, Kasey Olenberger, Matt Wilhite and position players Brown, Tim Duff, Terry Evans, Gary Patchett, Adam Pavkovich and Bobby Wilson played for the Bees in the 2007 postseason. ... In the PCL's other playoff series, the Iowa Cubs took a 1-0 lead on the Oklahoma Redhawks with a 10-3 home win. ... Attendance was 10,847.