WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. Salt Lake manager Bobby Mitchell, before his team's current PCL Pacific Conference playoff series started, said the Bees' goal was to split the first two games in Sacramento in the best-of-five series.
Despite losing 8-3 on Thursday night against the River Cats at Raley Field, Mitchell got his previously wanted split.
Then again, after Wednesday's Game 1 victory, the Bees were hoping for an even more successful road trip.
"We want to be greedy," Mitchell said just prior to Thursday's Game 2. "If we win this game, we will put a lot of pressure on them."
Instead, the River Cats used the long ball to even the series at 1-1. Sacramento hit four homers by four different players accounting for all five runs against Salt Lake starting pitcher Anthony Ortega. Later, Brooks Conrad ripped a two-run shot, his second of the game, for Sacramento.
For Ortega, it was his first loss of the year in a Bees uniform after going 5-0 during the regular season.
Salt Lake, meanwhile, couldn't get it going against Oakland A's starting pitcher Sean Gallagher, who was making a rehab start for the River Cats. He pitched five shutout innings, giving up just three hits to earn the victory.
Despite the loss, the Bees still have an advantage in that all three remaining games, assuming it goes the distance, will be in the friendly confines of Franklin Covey Field. Game 3 is set for tonight at 7 p.m. The fourth game, which is now a
certainty, will be Saturday night. Game 5, if necessary, will be on Sunday afternoon.
The Bees won the opener in a slugfest, 13-10, but they knew the defending PCL champs wouldn't go down without a fight.
"It's the playoffs and we know all the games will be hard fought with high intensity," said Bees first baseman Matt Brown. "That's what makes it fun. It's what playing this game is all about."
Brown is used to playoff-style pressure, having led the Team USA with 10 RBIs en route to a bronze medal during the recently completed Olympics. Getting back into the swing of things for the Bees hasn't been easy, however.
"I'm finally over the jet lag," said Brown, Salt Lake's lone triple-A All-Star this season of returning from Beijing. "It took about a week, but I'm feeling pretty good now."
Brown showed how good he feels on Wednesday night when he pounded four hits including two homers to lead the Bees to the victory. Brown was much quieter on Thursday, finishing 0-for-3 with a walk.
Chris Walker, Salt Lake's No. 9 hitter, ripped a two-run double in the seventh and then scored on a single by Brad Coon. But that was after the River Cats already had a 5-0 advantage. It proved to be too little, too late.
Sacramento scored three insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth off Bees reliever Henry Bonilla. Wes Bankston started it off with an RBI double and then was driven home by Conrad's second homer of the game and third of the series to provide the final five-run margin.
The Bees will try to regain the series lead tonight when they start Shane Loux, the PCL pitcher of the year, in Game 3. Loux, who went 12-6 with a 3.98 ERA for the Bees, is actually making a rehab start since he is currently on the roster of the parent Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He is on the disabled list due to recent oral surgery. Since he is pitching his way back into shape, however, he'll be on about a 60-pitch count. The River Cats are scheduled to start Chris Gissell (7-3, 3.43 ERA).BEELINES: Wednesday night's 13-10 slugfest took three hours and thirty-two minutes, making it the longest nine-inning playoff game in Salt Lake history. The previous record was 3:23 against Colorado Springs in 1995. By contrast, Game 2 was nearly an hour shorter, clocking in at 2:33 ... Infielder Peter Bourjos was promoted to the Bees on Thursday from class-A Rancho Cucamonga. In 121 games this season, Bourjos hit .295 with 29 doubles, 10 triples, nine homers and 50 stolen bases ... The 19 hits pounded by the Bees was a franchise record in a playoff game. Their four homers tied a franchise mark ... In the other PCL playoff series, the Oklahoma Redhawks downed the Iowa Cubs to even it up at 1-1 ... Attendance at Thursday's game was 11, 188.