It's been a while since the Salt Lake Bees had to look up to anybody in the division standings.
With a six-game lead on second-place Tacoma and only 19 games to go, it's a good bet Salt Lake goes to the PCL playoffs this year for the first time in manager Keith Johnson's tenure. The Bees, who beat Albuquerque 8-1 on the road on Thursday to improve their record to 73-53, are the only team in the league with 70 wins or more, and could end the season with the PCL's best record.
In Salt Lake's five-game homestand against Las Vegas, the challenge will be to keep that momentum rolling. The 51s (67-56) lead the Pacific Southern Division, clawing in a playoff race themselves. The Bees have been outstanding this season at Spring Mobile Ballpark, ringing up a 41-22 record on their home field.
Still, it won't be a breeze to get another series win, especially after infielder Andrew Romine was called up to the Angels on Wednesday. Not only was Romine the team's most sure-handed defender, he was coming off a monster roll at the plate during which he was named PCL offensive player of the week.
The cupboard is not bare in Salt Lake, as the Bees have season-long standouts Efren Navarro and Luis Rodriguez manning one side of the infield. Third baseman Luis Jiminez rejoined the club this week after being sidelined two months with a shoulder injury.
If anything, the outfield might keep the Bees hot, as the team is 7-3 in the last 10 games thanks to their bats. Although Peter Bourjos is the big name right now as he wraps up his rehab assignment, Matt Long (.301 BA), Drew Heid (.333 BA) and Roberto Lopez (.289 BA) have been consistent for the last month in the outfield.
The pitching staff is mostly the one that has taken the Bees this far, with win leaders Matt Shoemaker, Barry Enright, Billy Buckner and Jarrett Grube intact. The Bees brought in Dontrelle Willis this week, hopeful he can add some extra fire for the team's stretch run
Pioneer League roundup
Raptors 8, Voyagers 7 • Pat Stover, Gerson Nunez and Zach Babitt each knocked in two runs as Ogden (27-26) held on to win despite a three-run ninth inning by visiting Great Falls.
Brewers 3, Owlz 2 • Helena scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the 10th inning to beat visiting Orem (29-24).
Upcoming home games
Friday • Las Vegas, 7 p.m.
Saturday • Las Vegas, 6:30 p.m.
Sunday • Las Vegas, 1 p.m.
Monday • Las Vegas, 7 p.m.
Tuesday • Las Vegas, 7 p.m.