The Salt Lake Bees look to clinch their first playoff berth since 2013 as they conclude the regular season with a four-game series against the Fresno Grizzlies, September 1-4 at Smith's Ballpark.
After completing their longest road trip of the season with a 7-5 record, the Bees enter their final series of the year tied with the El Paso Chihuahuas atop the Pacific Coast League's Pacific Southern division. Since the Chihuahuas won the season series against the Bees, El Paso would win the division title and playoff berth if the two teams finished the regular season with the same record.
Salt Lake has enjoyed considerable success against Fresno this season, winning eight of the first ten meetings with the Grizzlies. The teams last met at Smith's Ballpark April 15-17, with the Bees earning a three-game sweep and recording two walk-off wins. Salt Lake has clinched the season series agaisnst Fresno for the first time since 2013, when the Bees went 12-4 against the Grizzlies. Ramon Flores leads the Bees with 16 hits against Fresno pitching this season, while Rey Navarro has scored a team-high 11 runs against the Grizzlies. Eight different Salt Lake pitchers have won one game each against Fresno this year, and Manny Banuelos leads the staff with nine strikeouts against the Grizzlies.
The Bees added a pair of new position players Thursday as catcher Jose Briceno and infielder Zach Houchins were called up from AA Mobile. Briceno appeared in three games with the Bees in 2016, while Houchins made his AAA debut Thursday, hitting a little-league homerun in the fifth inning when he tripled to right-center and scored on a throwing error. The pair took the roster spots of pitchers Luis Diaz, who was placed on the disabled list, and Fernando Salas, who was recalled to Anaheim. Salas signed with the Angels as a minor league free agent on August 19 after being released by the New York Mets. He previously pitched for the Angels from 2014-2016. Additionally, the Bees lost a few familiar faces Friday. Catcher Tony Sanchez was traded to the Atlanta Braves late Thursday night in exchange for infielder Brandon Phillips. Sanchez was promoted to the Braves' Major League roster Friday and should see his first big-league action since 2015 this weekend. Catcher Carlos Perez, relief pitchers Jason Gurka and Noe Ramirez, and infielder Nolan Fontana were also called up to the Angels as part of the club's September roster expansion. All four players have appeared in the big leagues before, and Perez and Fontana played for the Angels earlier this season.
Salt Lake's pitching staff put together an excellent August, posting a 3.80 earned run average for the month and lowering their season ERA to 4.90. Osmer Morales led the Bees with 24 August strikeouts, while John Lamb earned a team-best three August victories and Jaime Barria and Brooks Pounders combined to work 21 innings without allowing an earned run.
Should Salt Lake earn a playoff spot, the Bees would open the playoffs with a best-of-five series against the Pacific Northern division champion Reno Aces. Games one and two would be played September 6 and 7 at Greater Nevada Field, while game three and, if necessary, games four and five would be played at Smith's Ballpark September 8-10. For information on the Bees' playoff chances throughout the weekend, visit slbees.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.