The Salt Lake Bees remain in first place in the Pacific Coast League’s Pacific Southern Division, but their advantage took a bit of a hit when they lost two of three to the second-place Albuquerque Isotopes over the weekend at Smith’s Ballpark.
Salt Lake (35-29) won the final game of the three-game series against the Isotopes (31-32) 6-5 on Sunday, but struggled in an 11-1 loss in the series opener Friday night.
The Bees were considerably sharper in a 4-2 loss Saturday night, with all six runs coming by way of solo home runs in front of a Fireworks Night crowd of 13,277. Albuquerque broke a 2-2 tie in the top of the eighth inning on back-to-back home runs by Noel Cuevas and Jordan Patterson off Salt Lake reliever Mike Morin.
“It was a good game,” Bees manager Keith Johnson said. “We’re fine. Especially after [Friday] night and getting it taken to us a little bit, we came [Saturday] and battled a little bit. [Albuquerque’s] in our division and they’re right behind us, so it’s going to be a battle between the two of us every time.”
The Bees had a golden opportunity to tie or win the game in the bottom of the ninth. Carlos Perez drew a leadoff walk against Isotopes closer Matt Carasiti, and Cesar Puello followed with a base hit through the right side. Carasiti mishandled Ramon Flores’ sacrifice bunt attempt, loading the bases with nobody out.
But Carasiti settled in after that, striking out Matt Williams and Sherman Johnson before getting Michael Bourn to fly out to deep center field to end the game.
“Obviously, we came up on the short end of it, but we gave it our best try at the end there and just came up a little short,” Keith Johnson said. “I have 100 percent trust in my hitters — just their guy made the pitches.”
The Bees took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning on Sherman Johnson’s second home run of the year, a line drive that crept over the fence in right-center field. Albuquerque tied the game on Cuevas’ no-doubter that nearly hit the concession stand atop the berm beyond the left-center field fence, and Dustin Garneau followed with another blast to left-center off Salt Lake starter Luis Diaz.
Perez pulled the Bees even with a solo blast of his own to left-center in the bottom of the fourth off Isotopes starter Matt Flemer.
“The pitchers were attacking the zones,” Keith Johnson said. “They were going after guys, making guys swing the bat.”
Flemer lasted six innings, allowing two runs on seven hits and three walks with two strikeouts. He then gave way to reliever James Farris, who was credited with the win after pitching 1 2/3 perfect innings of relief. Sam Moll recorded the final out of the eighth inning for Albuquerque before Carasiti came in to record his 13th save of the season.
Diaz allowed two runs on four hits with two walks, one hit batter and three strikeouts in five innings for the Bees. Morin, who dropped to 0-1 on the season, gave up two runs on four hits with two strikeouts in three innings. Justin Miller allowed no runs on two hits in one inning of relief.
The Bees were off Monday before opening a four-game set against the Reno Aces on Tuesday night at 7:05 p.m. at Smith’s Ballpark. Salt Lake is 4-3 through the first seven games of its current 11-game homestand.
After the Reno series, the Bees will hit the road for a pair of four-game series against Tacoma and Las Vegas before returning home to face Reno again June 26.