The Albuquerque Isotopes were happy to rid themselves of one dismal streak on Monday afternoon, but couldn’t shake another one that continues to trouble the franchise of late.
Despite another rough outing from a starting pitcher putting them in an early hole, the ‘Topes offense did enough to manage a 12-11 win over the visiting Salt Lake Bees to snap a four-game home losing streak in front of an announced school-day matinee crowd of 4,061 at Isotopes Park.
While the bats saved the day — the ‘Topes (6-6) got a home run and four RBIs from left fielder Drew Weeks and a three-double, two-RBI game from designated hitter Tom Murphy — Albuquerque’s starting pitchers, particularly in the first couple innings, continued to get shelled early.
Is it a case of early season mechanics or still trying to get up to speed as the season has just begun?
“No, that’s bad pitching,” manager Glenallen Hill gave with a quick shutdown of any suggestion that the starting staff be given much benefit of the doubt for the way it has opened the past five games, the first four of which were losses (one to Las Vegas on Thursday then four in a row vs. Salt Lake).
“That’s not about being an early season thing. These guys come out of spring training and they’re prepared and the expectation is to execute pitches. We didn’t do a very good job of that. We were behind in the count and we let an offense that’s a pretty pitchable offense have its way.”
In the first inning alone of the past five games, Isotopes starters allowed nine runs, nine hits, four walks, three home runs, two triples, two doubles and even hit two batters.
On Monday, the game started a minute early at 11:04. Anyone who showed up on time missed Bees’ second baseman David Fletcher launch a second pitch home run over the left field wall for a 1-0 Salt Lake lead off starer Matt Flemer, who allowed five earned runs off five hits, including a pair of homers, with three walks over 3⅓ innings.
In the past five games, no ‘Topes starter has gone more than four innings nor allowed fewer than three runs, though one was only responsible for two earned runs. The pitching lines of Albuquerque’s past five starters:
• Monday, Flemer: 3⅓ innings, 5 earned runs, 5 hits, 3 walks
• Sunday, David Holmberg: 4 innings, 6 earned runs, 5 hits, 1 walk, two hit batters
• Saturday, Jeff Hoffman: 3⅓ innings, 3 earned runs, 3 hits, 2 walks
• Friday, Sam Howard: 4 innings, 4 earned runs, 6 hits, 3 walks
• Thursday, Harrison Musgrave: 4 innings, 4 runs/2 earned, 5 hits, 1 walk
“Every time you get into a situation like this, it’s just mindset,” Hill said of the pitching struggles.
So what’s being done about it?
“We did a little housecleaning — had an internal meeting and addressed some of those issues,” Hill said.
Asked for more specifics about what was talked about, Hill would only say, “everything.”
The ‘Topes now hit the road for a week (four games at Tacoma and three at Salt Lake) to see if the first-inning pitching blues can be the next streak they can end.
MURPHY’S LAW: Murphy, the ‘Topes catcher who is on the Rockies’ 40-man roster and was slotted in the lineup as designated hitter on Monday, has continued his early season tear at the plate.
He was 3-of-5 on Monday with three doubles in his first three at bats, giving him a team-high six on the season. He’s hitting .429, slugging .786, has three home runs, 11 RBIs and 33 total bases in 11 games.
“The stats, they speak for themselves,” Hill said of Murphy. “He’s worked really hard this offseason. A lot of his hard work is paying off. His at bats, he looks like he’s in control. That’s a good place for a hitter to be.”