It was a different season but the same ending for the Salt Lake Bees on Saturday night.
For the second year in a row, Salt Lake lost three straight playoff games against the Sacramento River Cats after getting off to a strong start in the best-of-5 Pacific Coast league semifinal series. Sacramento finished off the series with an 8-3 win on Saturday night at Franklin Covey Field.
"Obviously, they proved that they are the better team at this point of the season," said Bees manager Bobby Mitchell, whose team won the playoff opener before losing three in a row. "They swung the bats well."
Yes, it's true the River Cats swing the bats well. Sacramento hitters pounded 16 home runs in the four game series, including three during Saturday night's victory. The River Cats scored eight or more runs in all four games.
"They were mashing the ball," said Bees third baseman Adam Pavkovich. "The result came from them being hot and us being not hot."
Salt Lake won its division title for the third-straight season, and this time around they never trailed in the regular-season standings. The Bees opened the year with 10 consecutive wins and were 21-1 at one point.
But several players who played key roles during that incredible start including infielders Sean Rodriguez, Kendry Morales, Brandon Wood are currently up with the parent Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Bees can only wonder how the series might have been different if they were fielding the same team that opened the season last April.
"If we would have had our whole team that we had at the beginning of the year, I think it would have been a different story," said Bees second baseman Freddy Sandoval. "It's a business. We understand it. We had to battle with what we had and that's what we did."
Bees starting pitcher Nick Adenhart had good control on Saturday night, not walking a single River Cat. Unfortunately, the River Cats hit three home runs off of him to take a 7-2 lead by the sixth inning.
Travis Buck, Donnie Murphy and Chris Denorfia each hit homers for the visiting team, which will now try to defend its PCL title from last season against either Oklahoma or Iowa.
"That's pretty much the hottest team I've ever seen," said Bees first baseman Matt Brown of Sacramento. "My hat's off to them. They earned it. They won it fair and square. They basically just beat us to a pulp."
Despite the season-ending loss on Saturday night, several Bees players will continue playing baseball as late-season call-ups by the Angels. Brown, Sandoval, catcher Bobby Wilson and relief pitcher Kevin Jepsen will be heading to the majors. It will be the first trip ever to the big leagues for Sandoval and Jepsen.
"This was a great season, really," said Pavkovich, who has been part of all of Salt Lake's three straight division title teams. "You can look at the way we started. We had a great group of guys and everybody got along really well. A lot of us hung out off the field as well. It was a good team this year."
But still not quite good enough to advance to the PCL championship series yet again.BEELINES: Brown and Jepsen, who were both part of Team USA's bronze medal-winning Olympic team, signed autographs on the concourse prior to the game.... Bees closer Jason Bulger, who had the save in Salt Lake's Game 1 victory, was recalled by the Angels prior to Saturday night's game. It was the 161st transaction of the year for the Bees. By comparison, the 2007 Bees had 106 roster moves.... The River Cats will face either Oklahoma or Iowa for the PCL championship. The Redhawks and Cubs are tied, 2-2, with the best-of-5 series to be decided today in Oklahoma.
Bees in the postseason
PCL Pacific Conference Championship Series
Salt Lake Bees vs. Sacramento River Cats
Game 1: Bees 13, River Cats 10
Game 2: River Cats 8, Bees 3
Game 3: River Cats 13, Bees 5
Game 4: River Cats 8, Bees 2Sacramento wins series, 3-1