By Kyle Hines
SALT LAKE CITY– Salt Lake Stingers” ace Steve Green shook his head as manager Mike Brumley walked toward the mound. Green knew he needed just one more out to be eligible for his fifth-straight win and seventh of the season, a far cry from the 22 straight months the righthander had missed.
Brumley motioned to the bullpen and Green reluctantly handed over the ball. As the crowd cheered, Green looked at the scoreboard and felt comforted by the 6-2 lead his team held. Such was the scene Thursday at Franklin Covey Field where the Salt Lake Stingers overpowered the Sacramento RiverCats 9-5 to win the five-game series.
With Salt Lake City trailing by one run in the bottom of the first inning, Stingers” first baseman Robb Quinlan hit a two-run single that catapulted the Triple-A club into the lead. Quinlan”s hit, the first of four on the night, helped secure the sluggers” 21st multi-hit game of the year. Prior to Quinlan”s single, Chone Figgins hit his league-leading 12th triple and rightfielder Trent Durrington reached first after being hit by a pitch.
Two innings later it was Jeff Guiel who broke out of a 1-10 batting slump with a grand-slam home run. Guiel”s slam was the third on the year for the Stingers and pushed the score to 6-3 at the end of the third inning.
Sacramento responded with runs in the fourth and the fifth. But Salt Lake City roared back with another three scores in the bottom of the fifth inning to push the game out of reach. The Stingers scored runs on Robb Quinlan”s two-run homer and a single by Julio Ramirez.
The RiverCats mounted a rally of their own in the top of the ninth inning behind designated hitter Graham Koonce”s two-run shot. But the comeback fell short as Mark Johnson grounded out to first base to end the game.
Koonce”s long ball kept Sacramento”s home run hitting streak alive. The RiverCats have hit a home run in each of the eight games they have played against the Stingers this year.
Green, the surprise of the Stingers pitching staff this season, worked 4 2/3 innings before handing the game over to Rich Rodriguez who recorded the Salt Lake win.
The Stingers, who improved to 33-33 on the year, hit the road for a five-game series in Fresno before meeting up with Sacramento for a four-game showdown.