So much for finishing strong.
Salt Lake entered the final stretch of its up-and-down season staring at eight consecutive contests at Spring Mobile Ballpark. After dropping the initial four the spiraling Bees fell 3-1 to the Tucson Padres on Thursday before a crowd of 6,775 Salt Lake must at least split its final four just to finish the year with a winning record.
Mental errors, defensive miscues and blown opportunities encapsulated the Bees' latest effort. While Salt Lake (71-69) didn't officially commit an error, shortstop Andrew Romine failed to pull in a routine pop-up during the fifth inning. The misplay was soon traded for a Daniel Robertson RBI single that made it 1-0 Tucson, and the Bees never recovered.
"We made some mistakes defensively that cost us runs and you can't do that, regardless of a team's record," said Salt Lake manager Keith Johnson, referring to the Padres' poor 56-84 mark.
Tucson swept its four-game series with the Bees, and the clincher erased a strong outing by Salt Lake starter Greg Smith. The 28-year-old left-hander was sharp, mixing off-speed pitches with a fastball that seldom dropped jaws but was often unhittable. He threw 108 pitches (74 strikes), allowing six hits and two earned runs in 62⁄3 innings while striking out four.
Smith lowered his ERA to 3.97, which gave him the seventh-best average in the Pacific Coast League when he walked off the mound.
"Smith did a great job for us [Thursday]. Probably his last start of the year; he's been great for us all year," Johnson said.
But with Salt Lake leaving 12 runners on base including two in the bottom of the ninth striking out seven times and collecting only seven hits, Smith's outing amounted to little more than a personal victory. The Bees are faltering as a long season evaporates, and a team that's technically out of the playoff picture is clearly playing like it.
"Just play good baseball," Johnson said. "Obviously, [Thursday] we had some mental mistakes that are kind of creeping into our game a little bit. We've got to eliminate those."
Raptors 11, Chukars 5 • In Ogden, the Raptors scored seven runs in the second inning and beat Idaho Falls for their seventh straight Pioneer League victory.
Tae-Hyeok Nam and Justin Boudreaux hit home runs, and Noel Cuevas hit a three-run double during the Raptors' big inning.
Boudreaux added a two-run double in the sixth inning.
Rockies 4, Owlz 2 (11) • In Orem, three singles in the 11th inning lifted Grand Junction to the victory, handing the Owlz their fourth straight loss. Michael Bolaski went 3-for-5 with an RBI for Orem.
Storylines Padres 3, Bees 1
R Salt Lake drops its fourth consecutive game Thursday at Spring Mobile Ballpark.
• Bees starter Greg Smith throws 108 pitches in 62⁄3 innings and allows only two runs, but ends up with the loss.