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Salt Lake roughs up Isotopes

The Colorado Rockies’ best-laid plans were not entirely successful for the Albuquerque Isotopes on Thursday night.

Starting with the obvious down side, starting pitcher Jeff Hoffman, whom the Rockies sent down Sunday, was scheduled to pitch just one inning as the ‘Topes opened a crucial four-game series against the first-place Salt Lake Bees. It didn’t go well.

Hoffman was tagged for six runs and never made it out of the first as the Bees coasted to a 12-0 victory in front of an announced 8,926 fans.

This one was effectively over almost before it started and it was a defeat Albuquerque could ill-afford. The loss pushed the third-place Isotopes 3½ games behind Salt Lake in the PCL’s Pacific Southern Division with 11 games left in the season.

Albuquerque, which was shut out at home for the first time this season, has been heading in the wrong direction fast of late. They’ve lost seven of nine and are just 7-14 in August.

On a less significant but brighter note, Rockies infielder/outfielder Ian Desmond (calf strain) played the first of a scheduled four-game rehab assignment with the Isotopes on Thursday. Desmond played first base for six innings, going 1-for-2 with a double and a walk.

“That’s definitely a positive,” Isotopes manager Glenallen Hill said of Desmond’s outing. “It was the only positive tonight, it’s fair to say.”

Desmond agreed.

“It felt good to be out there,” he said, “but this team’s in a playoff hunt and you want to contribute. Not too many highlights tonight.”

Anemic offense has been largely responsible for the Isotopes’ recent swoon. They’ve scored more than two runs just once in their past nine games.

Albuquerque rarely even threatened to score on Thursday, managing just three hits in five innings against Salt Lake starter Jaime Barria, who was making his Triple-A debut. Overall, the Isotopes collected more strikeouts (seven) than hits (six). They also had six infield popouts and seven flyouts.

No Isotopes hitter finished with more than one hit.

“Way too many balls in the air,” Hill said. “We’ve got to make an adjustment tomorrow and square some balls up. It’s not a big adjustment but it’s a necessary one.”

Hill attributed Hoffman’s rough outing to a loss of focus.

“He got two quick outs and seemed to let his guard down,” Hill said. “Not a lot of quality pitches after that.”

Thursday’s blowout leaves the Isotopes with almost no margin for error if they’re to overtake Salt Lake and second-place El Paso by season’s end. On the other hand, Albuquerque is fortunate to still have a playoff pulse with a 62-68 record. The ‘Topes would be eliminated if they played in any of the PCL’s other three divisions.

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