ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Match the worst pitching staff in the Pacific Coast League with one of the toughest ball parks for pitchers in minor league baseball and what do you get?
Well, not exactly what you might expect.
The Reno Aces, who came to Albuquerque with the league’s highest earned run average at 5.91, got their second straight strong pitching performance against the Isotopes on Friday for a 9-4 victory.
The Aces, who entered the four-game series with a 14-26 record, have yet to trail in the first two games against the ‘Topes and have won a season-high three straight overall.
For the second straight night, Reno pitchers recorded 13 strikeouts against the Isotopes — including the last eight batters on Friday.
“You’ve got to give Reno’s pitching staff some type of credit,” said Albuquerque manager Lorenzo Bundy, “but it wasn’t like we were out there facing Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens. Especially with the type of ballclub we have, we shouldn’t have guys up there big-swinging. We have to have guys who put the ball in play; we have a bunch of 175-pound, 180 guys — even 160s. Obviously that will be a subject we address (today) offensively.”
While Reno’s Tyler Skaggs certainly isn’t a Martinez or Clemens, he is the parent Arizona Diamondbacks’ top prospect according to Baseball America. He entered the night with just a 2-5 record and 6.21 ERA, but showed why he is so highly regarded.
Skaggs allowed five hits and three earned runs in the first two innings, but gave up just two more hits and no runs in his final 4â…” innings to pick up the win.
For the second straight night, the Isotopes erased a 3-0 deficit but never got in front.
The Aces, who scored five in the ninth to win 8-3 on Thursday, scored three in the first on Friday — and all before Isotopes starter Aaron Laffey could register an out. Kia Ka’aihue hit a three-run homer in the inning.
Albuquerque scored a run in the bottom of the first and tied it on a two-run triple by Matt Angle in the second. The Isotopes, however, didn’t get another base runner until Angle walked in the top of the fifth. Any thoughts of a rally that inning quickly ended when Elian Herrera grounded into a double play. They were trailing 5-3 at the time.
But it wasn’t just the Isotopes’ hitters who have struggled in the first two games of this series. The pitching staff has gotten rocked, and Bundy and pitching coach Glenn Dishman held a closed-door meeting with the entire staff after the game.
“Glenn had some things to say, and I was just there to reinforce it,” Bundy said. “It was basic stuff, nothing they haven’t heard before. This is a hitter’s league, there’s no ifs, ands and buts about it. If we don’t pitch down in the zone and do the little things, it can be tough. There’s nothing a humidor can do to save you.”
The parent LA Dodgers had the Isotopes build a humidor for the baseballs this season .
It didn’t help Albuquerque reliever Steve Smith on Friday. Smith took over for Laffey in the seventh and gave up a single to Skaggs to start the inning. Brad Snyder singled on the next pitch and Reno made it three ropes in three pitches when Chris Owings ripped a two-run double.
Smith then got Ka’aihue’s in an 0-2 hole and his next pitch was also in the strike zone — shortly before it was resting on the berm behind the right field fence.