Offensively and defensively, the Bees couldn’t have asked for a better start at unseasonably cool, windy Smith’s Ballpark on Wednesday night in front of 4,736 fans.
The ending, however, left a lot to be desired — again.
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Blowing an early lead and wasting starter Caleb Clay’s gem through the first five innings, the Bees fell 6-3 to the Tacoma Rainiers in the second game of a four-game homestand.
Salt Lake dropped to 46-66 and now has the worst record in the entire Pacific Coast League after 45-64 Colorado Springs’ game was rained out Wednesday.
Salt Lake’s bats were alive early. Speedy center fielder Tony Campana led off the first inning with a single and scored on Roberto Lopez’s single. Brennan Boesch then crushed a two-run homer off Tacoma starter Jordan Pries to give the home team a 3-0 lead, and it looked like it was going to be a big offensive night for the Bees.
They got just six hits and no runs the rest of the way, giving the Rainiers plenty of time to solve Clay.
The Bees starter took a no-hitter into the sixth hitting by befuddling the Rainiers with a sneaky changeup, but the visitors flipped the switch and figured him out after Ty Kelly grounded out.
Clay promptly gave up four straight hits as John Hicks broke up the no-no with a grounder between third and short, and when the sixth was finally over, Tacoma had a 4-3 lead. The big blow in the frame was Abraham Almonte’s check-swing 3-run homer over the right field fence.
"He made one bad pitch to Almonte and he got it up in the wind and got it out of the ballpark for a 3-run homer," said Bees manager Keith Johnson.
Jesus Montero’s single plated Ji-Man Choi, who had doubled, for the go-ahead run.
Clay struck out six of the first nine hitters he faced and had faced the minimum through five innings, despite giving up a pair of walks, thanks to a double play and catcher Luis Martinez’s arm. He was relieved in the seventh by Kyler Newby, who threw four pitches before leaving the game. The next reliever, Michael Kohn, started strong but struggled with his control and eventually walked Choi with the bases loaded to give Tacoma a 5-3 lead.
Almonte drove in another run in the ninth for a four-RBI night. Taylorsville native John Buck went 2-for-4, while getting only his second career start at first base. His first was in Tuesday’s 5-3 win over the Rainiers. Prior to that, the longtime major league catcher had just three career innings at first base, in a game earlier this season with Seattle.
Johnson said Buck is one of three catchers on the roster and is playing first base because the team is currently shorthanded with only nine position players.
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