Run of solid pitching ends for ’Topes - Albuquerque Journal

Run of solid pitching ends for ’Topes

Isotopes reliever Shane Broyles was one of the few bright spots on the mound Wednesday as he pitched 2⅓ scoreless innings in Albuquerque’s 12-11 loss to Fresno.

Wednesday night certainly wasn’t the best example.

But before a reporter showed up at Isotopes Park on Wednesday afternoon asking questions about it, Albuquerque’s Triple A baseball franchise had quietly been putting together a great month of May on the mound.

Wednesday night, the Isotopes lost to the visiting Fresno Grizzlies, 12-11, in 11 innings, in front of an announced crowd of 7,406.

Ten of the Grizzlies’ 12 runs were earned, including eight earned runs credited to left-handed starter Brett Oberholtzer, who surrendered four homers in his 4⅓ innings of work.

But, Oberholtzer’s start, included allowing three runs in the first inning and two more in the second, was the exception for the ‘Topes of late.

Entering Wednesday’s game, the team’s 4.50 ERA in the month of May — a staff ERA worth writing home about in the world of Pacific Coast League baseball, especially for a team based at hitter-friendly Isotopes Park — was a full 2.50 below the 7.00 ERA the team posted in April.

As one could imagine, there’s a reason the Isotopes went 10-15 in April and are now sitting at 18-11 in May, one win shy of a franchise record for wins in May.

The change was all about a little self reflection.

“We do tailor some stuff around scouting reports, but mostly, now, we’re tailoring on what we do good — focusing on what we’re able to do,” said Isotopes pitching coach Brandon Emanuel. “Obviously we still need to work on our weaknesses and what we need to get better at, but really just focusing more on using our best stuff versus them. It’s mano a mano and if we’re going to get beat, we’re going to get beat with our best stuff.”

Rather than bogging down pitchers’ minds with detailed scouting reports about what opposing hitters do, the focus in recent weeks for the ‘Topes has been simply throwing their best pitches and avoiding lengthy at bats.

“We’re concentrating on trying to get outs in four pitches or less,” Manuel said. “We expand the zone when we want to expand the zone, but when we get in action counts — your 1-1 count or 2-2 counts, we want the ball put in play. So let’s make a quality pitch, our best strike percentage pitch that we can throw that day. That can change inning to inning or pitch to pitch, but it’s really concentrating on making sure that we’re attacking the strike zone, not necessarily swing and miss pitches.”

The approach, and results, from the mound in May for the ‘Topes is certainly making the parent club Colorado Rockies happy.

Rockies pitching coordinator Darryl Scott, the former Isotopes pitching coach who is well aware of how hard it is to pitch both in the PCL and in Isotopes Park in particular, said it was all about the staff settling down after maybe trying to do too much early on.

“Guys are settling in a little bit to the routine here,” said Scott. “Anytime you throw young pitchers into this environment — this level with this park, included — we talk a lot about it. Just go and execute pitches. They’ve got to get over that initial kind of shock that you know balls that are normally outs can sometimes be home runs here.”

NEW RULES: Wednesday’s 4 hour, 22 minute game was the first extra-inning game in Albuquerque this season and the first since all of minor league baseball implemented new rules for extra-inning games where a runner starts at second base in the 10th inning and beyond in an effort to speed the game up.

The Grizzlies scored three runs (the first is unearned). Then, in the bottom of the 10th, the new rule allowed Isotopes’ catcher Jan Vazquez to get the rare baseball accomplishment of having a lead-off 2-run homer, a rope over the right field wall, pulling Albuquerque within 11-10.

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