SALT LAKE CITY — A
Another Pacific Coast League playoff game.
Another heartbreaking loss for Las Vegas.
Salt Lake’s Scott Cousins’ sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth inning scored Andy Marte from third base Thursday night and gave the Bees a 5-4 victory over the 51s at Spring Mobile Ballpark.
The win gave Salt Lake a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series, which resumes Friday night at Cashman Field.
It was a crushing defeat for the 51s, who rallied to tie the game in the top of the ninth on pinch-hitter Francisco Pena’s double to the gap in left center. Pena drove in Jamie Hoffman, who had kept Las Vegas alive with a two-out single off Bees’ reliever Daniel Stange.
In the end, however, Pena’s clutch hit simply set the stage for Salt Lake’s second consecutive one-run victory in what has been a spectacularly competitive series.
Marte opened the bottom of the ninth with a single off Carson, who was also the losing pitcher in Game 1.
Marte went to second on a passed ball by Pena, who had entered the game as a pinch-hitter for starting catcher Juan Centeno.
After Efren Navarro was walked intentionally, Drew Heid bunted to runners to second and third.
Las Vegas manager Wally Backman then intentionally walked Roberto Lopez to load the bases, bringing Cousins to the plate for his decisive at-bat.
Cousins, the Salt Lake catcher, worked the count full by not biting on a couple of Carson breaking balls that just missed the outside corner.
On the 3-2 pitch, Cousins lofted a high fly to short center field. With Marte tagging at third, Las Vegas’ Brian Bixler made the catch, but his throw to the place was a fraction of a second late.
Marte was called safe by plate umpire Scott Mahoney, despite the protests of Pena and Carson, who was backing up the bang-bang play at the plate.
“I can’t remember how many pitches it was,” Cousins said. “I just know the dude throws hard. … I was just trying to put the bat on the ball against that guy. He’s got a good off-speed pitch and I was able to lay off and finally got a fastball up in the zone that I needed to hit the fly ball.”
Cousins wasn’t surprised Salt Lake manager Keith Johnson, who was coaching at third, sent Marte on the short fly.
“Not at all,” he said. “There’s one out in the bottom of the ninth. I don’t care who you are. You’ve got to try and win the game.”
The result means Salt Lake needs only one more win to advance to the PCL championship series against Oklahoma City or Omaha.
“That’s huge,” Cousins said. “That gives us a little cushion. We have to go down there and win one out of three instead of two out of three or three out of three. That’s a huge difference, to win these two games at home.”
Las Vegas managed eight hits against five Salt Lake pitchers in Game 2. Ruben Tejada went 2-for-4 while Rylan Sandoval drove in two runs with a fourth-inning single.