by Tai Justice
The Salt Lake Bees returned to Smith’s Ballpark on Thursday, June 10, 2021 to host a six-game series against the Albuquerque Isotopes. The Triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies took the field as Smith’s ballpark was open at full capacity for one of the first times all season. The Bees were returning home after a successful road-trip where the team won three of five games in Tacoma. The Bees entered the series a disappointing 5-13 at home on the season.
The first game of the series started out with Jake Fria taking the ball for the Bees. He pitched a gem as their pitching staff continued their hot month of June, leading all Triple-A West teams in ERA in the month of June. Faria tossed an excellent six and one-third innings giving up just two hits and two earned runs while striking out a season-high ten batters.
Matt Thaiss got things going for the Bees offense in the bottom of the third as he tripled into deep center field. He scored one run to give the Bees an early lead. They wouldn’t look back. Thaiss tonight was just getting started as he blasted a homer to center field at the bottom of the seventh. That broke the game open and make it 6-2 Bees. That was the third consecutive game in which Thaiss scored a home run. Eight batters would at least get one hit for the Bees with Anthony Bemboom leading the team with three hits. He finished a double short of the cycle. The final score would be Bees 7, Isotopes 4.
The Bees improved to 13-17 on the season, while the Isotopes fell to 9-22.
Albuquerque jumped to an early 5-0 lead in the first two innings behind stationary baseball. They put up five runs in a variety of ways: singles, a double, a sac fly, an RBI-groundout and Salt Lake mistakes. The Bees would commit three errors in the game. That put an end to their errorless streak of three games.
The Bees went to bat for the second time of the night already down by a substantial margin. However, they would tie the game back up thanks to a Michael Stefanic two-run homer, a Jo Adell RBI single and a Scott Schebler two-run home run. Just like that the game was tied before the Isotopes broke the tie apart in the sixth on a Rio Ruiz RBI-single and added two more runs in the top of the seventh on a two-run blast to left field from former Salt Lake Bee Jose Briceno. Preston Palmeiro hit a solo homer to bring the Bees back within two in the bottom of the seventh.
Former Yankees first-baseman Greg Bird would launch a home run into right to make it a 9-6 lead in the top of the ninth. The Bees would have a little rally in the ninth. They tacked on a run to pull the deficit within two at 9-7 and even brought the winning run up to the plate. However, it would fall short as they would drop the game 9-7.
The Bees would fall to 13-18 on the season, while the Isotopes would get a much needed win and improve to 10-22. The Bees fell to 0-17 this year when trailing after seven runs.
Fireworks went off to start this game as Luis Rengifo hit a lead-off home run to make it a 1-0 Bees lead. Jose Rojas would continue his big series as he would tack on an RBI to make it 2-0 Bees. Michael Stefnaic capped off a big first inning for Salt Lake with a towering home run to right field to make it 5-0 Bees after the first inning.
Albuquerque would cut into the lead somewhat in the top of the second, pushing two runs across the plate behind a RBI from Brian Serven. The Bees’ bats were too loud on this warm summer night in Salt Lake City. They were just getting started after the five-run first inning they had. Matt Thaiss continued his hot stretch with another RBI to make it 6-2 in the second.
Drew Butera and Anthony Bemboom both added an RBI for the Bees. Greg Bird would line an RBI double to right field to make it 8-4 Bees before the man who started the game off the right way, put away any hope of an Isotopes comeback. Rengifo homered again, this time a 3-run bomb to right field to make it 11-4 Salt Lake and that would be the final score.
The Bees would improve to 14-18 on the year, while the Isotopes would fall to 10-23.
Starting off just like the previous game started and ended, Luis Rengifo blasted a baseball over the wall at Smith’s Ballpark. This time, he did it to deep right center field to lead off the Sunday matinee and give the Bees an early 1-0 lead. The Bees then played small ball as they ran the old little league: “steal from first when you have runners on the corner” play and it worked to perfection. They scored a run off this strategy in the bottom of the second.
It was 2-0 Bees until Rio Ruiz cut that lead in half on an RBI to make it a one run game. Preston Palmeiro delivered an RBI to put the Bees back up by two runs and make it a 3-1 ballgame. That’s where the score stayed until the top of the sixth when the Isotopes tied the game behind an RBI and a walk with the bases loaded. Suddenly, the score was locked up at three.
The Bees offense, which had gotten off to a hot start in this series, cooled off a bit. The Isotopes’ bullpen held them scoreless for the five straight innings. Former Salt Lake Bees catcher Jose Briceno would deliver the dagger to his former team. He hit a solo home run in the top of the eighth to give Albuquerque a 4-3 lead and that would be the final score.
That was the second time this series that a former Bee had come back to burn their old team as Jose Briceno did it in the second of this series as well. The Bees would fall to 14-19 on the season, while the Isotopes would improve to 11-23.
The Bees would fall behind to start this matchup as Chris Rabago hit what looked to be a routine pop-up fly to swallow left field. It should have been the 3rd out of the inning, but Jo Adell badly misread the ball and let it drop in front of him. The Isotopes would score two-runs off the error to make it a 2-0 Isotopes lead after the second inning.
Adell would quickly make up for the costly error as he continued his hot hitting at the plate this season. He scorched a ball down the left field line. He showed off his speed, stretching it out to a triple to tie the game 2-2. Jose Rojas would hit a ball down the opposite corner sideline. This one went down the right field line and just like that the Bees would take a 3-2 lead after the bottom of the third inning.
Rabago wouldn’t need an error to get on base his next time up as he would line a double down the left field line to tie the game 3-3 in the top half of the fourth. Rio Ruiz would continue his big series with a double over the center fielder’s head to regain the lead for the Isotopes.
It was 4-3 Isotopes until the star of the series struck again. Luis Rengifo delivered a two-RBI single in the bottom of the fourth to give the Bees a 5-4 lead. Behind some stellar pitching out of the bullpen from Salt Lake, that would end up as the final score. Thomas Pannone got the start for the Bees and allowed all four runs. He also struck out three but the bullpen posted zeroes all around for the Bees. Austin Warren, Andrew Wantz and Tim Peterson finished the last four innings allowing only two hits and a walk.
The Bees would improve to 15-19 on the season, with the struggling Isotopes falling to 11-24.
The series finale of the six-game set between the two teams struggling to start the season was just as exciting as the rest of the series. The trend of runs in early innings continued. Brian Serven and Greg Bird of the Isotopes knocked in RBI shots to make it a 2-0 Albuquerque lead in the top of the second. Then, Triple A home run leader Jo Adell did what he does best and blasted a home run out to deep right field to tie the game at 2-2 at the end of the three.
The Istopoes would lead 3-2 going into the top of the sixth before completely breaking the game open with a massive seven-run inning. The craziest part abou this inning was that the Istopoes scored all seven runs with two outs in the inning. The Bees were an out away from keeping this at a one-run game. Instead of being in striking distance, it was a 10-2 deficit when they went into the dugout.
How did this debacle of an inning happen? There were three home runs to left field. Taylor Motter, Brian Servens and Chris Owings all hit home runs and the Isotopes batted around with two-outs in the inning. Motter took the plate again, hit an RBI and it was suddenly a 10-2 game. It was legitimately a shocking inning for the Bees and everyone in the stadium. To recap, there were two quick outs for the Bees and then chairs happened. To recap, the Bees allowed seven runs, three home runs and the whole Isotopes’ batting cycle to get a turn at the plate. That was the inning for Albuquerque. The Bees then started the bottom of the sixth down 10-2.
The Bees would tack on a run in the seventh, three runs in the eighth and another in the ninth. It still wasn’t quite enough for a comeback as the Isotopes continued to score as well. They finished the game with 18 hits, tying a season-high for hits surrendered by the Bees’ pitching this year. Jo Adell was the offensive star for the Bees, hitting a home run and a double for a multi-hit game. Anthony Bemboom would hit a home run to deep right field as six of the Bees hits went for extra bases. The two teams combined for 19 runs and 25 hits.
12-7 would end up as the final as the two teams would end up splitting the six game series. The Bees would fall to 15-20 on the season and the Isotopes would improve to 12-24. Both teams are still searching to hit their true stride on the season.
Featured image courtesy Salt Lake Bees Twitter