SALT LAKE CITY — Smith’s Ballpark was packed to the brims Tuesday night (13,371 fans were in attendance) with the Salt Lake Bees faithful, all of whom were primed to celebrate the close of Pioneer Day with fireworks.
As it turned out, the fireworks came early and often to the ballpark.
Unfortunately for the hosts, the explosions were almost solely the result of swings of the bat by the visiting Memphis Redbirds.
Memphis hit six homers against the Bees, including multiple-run blasts by Rangel Ravelo, Tyler O’Neill and Luke Voit and handily defeated Salt Lake 14-4.
In additions to the bombs, the Redbirds benefitted from a three-run triple by Voit, as well as solo shots from Ravelo and Adolis.
Voit finished the night 2 for 5 with five RBIs, while Ravelo was 3 for 4 with five RBIs of his own.
The Bees were led in defeat by their trio of young prospects, Matt Thaiss, Taylor Ward and Michael Hermosillo, who finished a combined 7 of 14.
FAMILIARITY BREEDS … SUCCESS: Heading into the All-Star break, the Bees were playing, by manager Keith Johnson’s own admission, awful.
“We have been going through more than a rough stretch, whether it be hitting, pitching, defense, or managing,” Johnson told the Deseret News during the midst of the team's struggles. “We’re trying to compete the best we can, but it just hasn’t been happening for us lately.”
The struggles were such that Salt Lake lost 12 of its final 13 games before the midseason break, a stretch that cost the club first place in the Pacific Southern division of the PCL.
Since the break, however, the Bees have looked like a completely different team, despite Tuesday night’s result.
In the time since the midseason classic, the Bees have won nine out of 12 games, and recorded their first sweep of the season, against the Tacoma Rainiers.
For Johnson, the reason for the turnaround is quite simple.
“We had a lot of turnover before the All-Star break, a lot of movement on the roster, a lot of guys unfamiliar with each another,” the veteran skipper said. “Since the All-Star break we haven’t had a lot of transactions and guys have grown comfortable playing together.”
NOTHING LASTS FOREVER: In their three road games against the Rainiers over the weekend, prior to the current seven game homestand, the Bees bullpen was at its season-best.
The group, headlined by Ryan Clark and Dylan Unsworth, among others, was practically unhittable, toeing the rubber for a combined 17.1 scoreless innings.
Their success merely continued what has been a greatly improved July. The Salt Lake bullpen has seven saves this month, one away from their season-high for a single month.
Clark has led the way with four saves (he has five all season), while Unsworth is in the midst of an eight inning scoreless streak, which includes a three-inning save.
Eduardo Paredes and Akeel Morris have been excellent as well, each recording a save since the break.Comment on this story
Of course, all good things come to an end, as was the case Tuesday night. All told, the Bees bullpen surrendered nine runs to the Redbirds. Greg Mahle was the reliever burned the most, seeing as he was on the unfortunate end of five Memphis scores. Tyler Stevens wasn't blameless either, as he surrendered four additional scores.
Redbirds — 14
Bees — 4
In short: The Redbirds hit six homers, battering Bees starter Luis Pena, as well as relievers Tyler Stevens and Greg Mahle.
Up next: Memphis RHP Dakota Hudson (13-2, 2,36) at Salt Lake LHP Jose Suarez (0-3, 5.11), Wednesday, 7:05 p.m.