There’s a statue of Geoff Blum in Chicago. Maybe Steve Heltz thought the man himself would swing just as slowly.
As his team clung to a one-run, fifth-inning lead, the Bees pitcher fed Blum with a fastball over the middle. Heltz had just loaded the bases with his third walk of the game, but a 39-year-old with a sub-.200 average likely didn’t seem the biggest threat.
But there’s a reason the old man has been immortalized in bronze.
Best known for his go-ahead home run in 2005 to end the longest World Series game ever, Blum hooked the pitch on a beeline for the right-field berm.
It all but sealed the Bees’ 12-4 loss at Spring Mobile Ballpark, their 10th in 11 games.
“Right now, we’re just going through a funk,” said manager Keith Johnson.
Blum, currently on a rehab assignment for a torn oblique, notched the second grand slam Salt Lake has surrendered this season. Reno first baseman Ryan Wheeler was responsible for the other, which secured a 9-5 win on April 30.
Relief isn’t on the horizon for the Bees (36-40), who are 3-6 against the Aces this year. They host division-leading Reno three more times in the series, with stud prospect Trevor Bauer (4-0, 2.79) taking the mound for the Aces on Sunday.
Blum’s grand slam opened the floodgates for Reno (46-30), which entered the game with the Pacific Coast League’s second-best batting average at .308 and outhit the Bees 11-5. Shortstop Jake Elmore padded Reno’s lead with two more runs, extending his league-best hitting streak to 30 games. Wheeler added a three-run homer in the final frame.
Catcher Hank Conger, who started the day with the PCL’s second-longest active streak, put the Bees on board in the first inning with a sacrifice fly to center field. He went 0-for-2 with a walk, ending his milestone at 21 games — three short of the franchise record.
Salt Lake shortstop Ed Lucas knocked a solo shot over left field in the fourth inning to give his team a short-lived lead. The Bees never scored again.