The long fly ball down the right field line reads on the official scoring book as a foul ball. But for the sparse crowd at Spring Mobile Ballpark, and Salt Lake manager Keith Johnson, it was a bit more controversial than that.
The umpire crew worked at two-thirds strength Thursday night because the original home plate umpire left early in the game after a foul ball struck his left hand. With a runner at third, the home plate umpire was forced to rule on a line drive by Cory Aldridge. In a 9-7 ballgame, Aldridge may have wound up as the tying run at second base. Instead, he struck out two pitches later.
"From my angle, I thought it was a fair ball, and then the reaction from my bullpen played a big part in my argument," Johnson said. "But it's his call."
It was a tough loss for the Bees as the Sacramento River Cats (63-43) came back from a 4-0 deficit to win 11-7. Salt Lake (51-55) led through seven innings, then reliever Bobby Cassevah gave up five earned runs in the eighth inning.
"We would've liked that the bullpen come in and had a better showing," Johnson said. "They came in and threw strikes, but that's a great hitting ballclub over there."
As poor as the pitching was for Salt Lake, the offense turned in an impressive performance on the heels of a three-hit performance Wednesday night.
Luis Jimenez continued his hot hitting, crushing a home run in the second inning, hitting an RBI double in the eighth and finishing 3 for 3 on the night. Efren Navarro also hit a two-run home run in the sixth.
He leads the team with a .317 batting average.
"Luis is a guy last year who drove in 94 runs," Johnson said. "When he gets into those situations, he's been doing a great job of bearing down and getting a hit."
On rehab assignments, former MLB All-Star Vernon Wells and Chris Iannetta had a relatively quiet game at the plate. Iannetta doubled in his first at-bat, and Wells went 0 for 3 and was hit by a pitch from Pedro Figueroa late in the game.
"Both guys played back-to-back nine-inning games, and I believe they have one more night," Johnson said. "Whenever our big league team deems they are ready, they will add a lot of depth to the major league ballclub."
Storylines River Cats 11, Bees 7
R The Bees wear Salt Lake Trappers throw-back jerseys, and actor Bill Murray (once a part-owner of Trappers) threw the ceremonial first pitch before the game. More than 10 former Trappers players from 1987 are in attendance to commemorate their season that had 29 straight wins.
• Luis Jimenez hits his 10th home run of the season in the second inning, and Efren Navarro hit his sixth in the sixth.
• With the loss and blown save, relief pitcher Bobby Cassevah's ERA balloons to 8.13 as he gave up five earned runs.