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‘Topes stop losing streak

Isotopes pitcher Jeff Bennett battles the Nashville Sounds in the second inning during the game with Nashville at Isotopes Park on Sunday. 
Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal
Isotopes pitcher Jeff Bennett battles the Nashville Sounds in the second inning during the game with Nashville at Isotopes Park on Sunday. Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal
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The sun finally shone on the Albuquerque Isotopes on Sunday.

A homestand previously filled with rain and a general gloom took a welcome turn as the ‘Topes snapped a four-game losing streak with a 4-2 matinee victory over Nashville.

The preceding days at home included a 17-7 loss, a game lost to rain and Saturday night’s elimination from Pacific Coast League playoff contention.

“We’d lost four in a row and it really felt like eight,” Isotopes manager Damon Berryhill said. “This win was much-needed. It felt good to finally shake hands again.”

Starting pitcher Jeff Bennett provided Albuquerque the lift it sorely needed, pitching into the seventh inning and improving his record to 7-6.

Isotopes pitching had been torched in the first four games of the homestand, allowing 36 runs combined. But Bennett set a different tone Sunday, allowing just one run in six plus solid innings.

The Sounds did collect nine hits off Bennett, but the right-hander was able to make the big pitch when needed – often a 70 mph curveball that left batters shaking their heads.

“Good day,” Bennett said afterward. “Guys made good plays behind me and I just relied on (catcher Tim Federowicz) to call the pitches. Fed has a good head on his shoulders, me not so much. I just tried to throw it where he wanted it and things worked out.”

Berryhill gave a bit more credit to his starter.

“Bennett’s a veteran guy who knows how to minimize damage,” Berryhill said. “He knows how to pitch, how to work around hits. He’s been probably our most consistent starter as far as working deep into games and giving us a chance to win.”

The Isotopes’ offense was largely quiet, managing just seven hits. But three of those hits came in the second inning and two were home runs.

Clint Robinson hit the first, a 440-foot blast to left-center, that got Albuquerque started. Walter Ibarra later followed with a two-run homer that carried into the bullpen in left field.

“Walter hit that ball well,” Berryhill said. “He’s been making good contact ever since he got back (from Double-A Chattanooga.)”

For the first time on the homestand, music blared in the Isotopes postgame clubhouse and players appeared upbeat as they headed out to enjoy a rare night off.

“We needed a win,” Bennett said. “It’s strange because we’ve got a great team and a good group of guys. We’ve just hit a bad run and couldn’t seem to put things together. Hopefully, this will turn things around a little bit.”

HOLD THAT HORN: Outfielder Joc Pederson’s chase for 30-30 club membership hit something of a speed bump Sunday.

Pederson nearly got his 30th home run in the first inning but Nashville left fielder Sean Halton robbed him with a well-timed leaping grab at the fence. Not everyone saw the catch, however, as the mock air-raid siren that plays over the Isotopes Park speakers for every ‘Topes home run cranked up as Pederson rounded first base and headed back to the dugout.

He later was denied his 29th stolen base, starting toward second a bit too soon after singling in the fifth inning. Nashville pitcher Jay Jackson threw to first and Pederson was caught stealing for the 10th time.

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