We are just trying to get back to where we were at the beginning of the season. There was a time where we kind of slowed up a little with the bat, and we just tried to be aggressive tonight. —Jabari Blash
SALT LAKE CITY — Through four innings Friday night at Smith’s Ballpark, the Salt Lake Bees looked like the Bees of yesteryear.
Bloop singles, groundout RBIs and sacrifice flies carried the day, as Salt Lake plated five runs via the reappearance of Honeyball.
The small ball resurgence was short-lived, however, thanks to Jabari Blash and Rymer Liriano. The pair of sluggers, who top the roster with 15 and 11 home runs, respectively, each went yard in the fifth inning, leading the Bees to a 9-6 series-opening victory over the Reno Aces.
Kaleb Cowart led off the fifth inning surge with a double, immediately after which Blash sent his shot to deep left field.
"As a hitter, you try to be aggressive, and in this league you can't stop getting runs," said Blash. "I was just thinking hard contact right there.
"It was a good one."
Nolan Fontana followed Blash’s blast with a double of his own, and Liriano made sure to get him home with his jack.
All told, the Bees finished with seven extra-base hits, the highlight of which for the 5,296 fans in attendance were the home runs.
"We are just trying to get back to where we were at the beginning of the season," said Blash. "There was a time where we kind of slowed up a little with the bat, and we just tried to be aggressive tonight."
I KNEW YOU WERE TROUBLE: While the power-stylings of Blash and Liriano carried the day, catcher Juan Graterol quietly had one of his best outings of the season. The 29-year-old Venezuelan finished 2 for 4 with three RBIs, including a fourth inning two-run double down the left field line.
The three runs batted in were a season-high in a game for Graterol, who now has 13 RBIs on the season, in 18 games.
OUT OF THE WOODS: Fontana has had a rough go of it this season, in no large part due to a hamstring injury. The malady limited Fontana to just seven games played in the month of April, seven games in which he had just two hits in over twenty at-bats.
Things have turned around of late for the former Florida Gator, however.
Since returning from the disabled list Fontana has shown glimmers of his former self – Fontana played in 105 games with Salt Lake last season and finished with a .271 batting average, 98 hits and 86 runs scored, not to mention 26 doubles and a career-high 10 home runs – and is 9 for 18 in five games with five extra-base hits.
LONG LIVE: A ballplayer wearing the No. 17 manning first base has been a regular occurrence for the Bees this season, what with Ryan Schimpf’s position on the roster the first two months of the season.
Schimpf was unconditionally released by the Angels on May 22 — Chris Carter was traded to the Minnesota Twins the same day — however, creating availability for the No. 17. Matt Thaiss, the Angels' fifth-rated prospect and the No. 10 overall first base prospect in all of baseball, took over and Friday marked his first appearance in the Salt Lake with the club (Thaiss made his Bees debut in the series against Albuquerque, appearing in three games).
The New Jersey native finished 2 for 4 with a double and a run scored.
Bees - 9
Aces - 6
In short: Jabari Blash and Rymer Liriano each hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning, giving Salt Lake an insurmountable lead.
Up next: Reno RHP Jake Buchanan (3-3, 3.67) at Salt Lake RHP Osmer Morales (2-2, 5.68), Saturday, 6:35 p.m.