The defense has been sloppy. The pitching hasn’t been great. And the Albuquerque Isotopes haven’t won back-to-back games in nearly three weeks.
Inconsistency, at least as of late, seems to be more of the constant for the team as a whole than the alternative, which was again the case Tuesday in an 8-3 loss against the visiting Round Rock Express to open a six-game series at Isotopes Park.
But that’s not to say everyone on the roster is getting bit by the same bug.
Second baseman Tim Lopes, the 27-year-old from Los Angeles who opened the season as the Pacific Coast League Player of the Week, has pretty much been as reliable as any player on the Isotopes roster this season.
Tuesday, he went 2-for-5 at the plate from the leadoff spot with a pair of doubles and a run scored, bringing his average this season to .306. He’s hit safely in 27 of the 33 games he’s played, and Tuesday’s multi-hit game gives him 13 for the season, tied for the team lead.
“Timmy’s consistent. I mean, you trust that guy with a professional AB (at-bat) every time he comes to the play. Every time,” said Isotopes manager Warren Schaeffer.
Even more specifically, he’s been setting the table as a leadoff hitter for an Isotopes offense that remains among the league leaders in most offensive categories.
“He’s perfect for that leadoff spot,” Schaeffer said. “He gives you that professional AB, he takes his walks, he provides some thump – gives you some doubles.”
Tuesday, Schaeffer noted, was the “perfect example” of Lopes’ value in that leadoff spot. In the first inning, he doubled a 1-2 pitch to center field (he has nine doubles this season), advanced to third on the next at-bat on a Dom Nuñez line out to right field, then scored from third for a 1-0 Isotopes lead on an Elehuris Montero single.
“That’s what we’re looking for,” Schaeffer. “We trust him.”
EEEEEEE! Schaeffer was a high-level defensive infielder in his minor league playing days. So there’s nothing that frustrates him more than bad defense.
The Isotopes had three errors on Tuesday and have been struggling to play defensively up to their ability, Schaeffer said.
“The infield defense, yeah, I would say was sloppy,” Schaeffer said. “This has been a problem we’ve been dealing with all year, for the most part. I looked for the first time at the numbers last week and we’re fourth from the bottom on defense, which to me is unacceptable. We have the players to be towards the top of the league in defense. And the boys know it and they are working hard and are getting after it.”
COME ON, BLUE! Tuesday night was the first time Albuquerque has been a part of the new Automated Ball-Strike system being implemented on a limited trial run this season in the Pacific Coast League.
The system started in the PCL last week, when the Isotopes played in Salt Lake City.
If fans watching the game didn’t know the ABS system was being used, they likely wouldn’t have known as there were no visible changes from the three-man umpire crew, including home plate umpire Luis Hernandez, who visibly called all balls and strikes as a normal game. The difference being any pitch not swung at was determined a ball or strike based on computer monitors and sensors situated around the park.
NO STREAKING: The month started well enough for Albuquerque.
The Isotopes went 3-0 to start May (a home win over Sacramento and two road wins at Oklahoma City), including the first of a rain-delay make up doubleheader on May 5. They lost the second game, starting that day a trend of not winning back-to-back games since.
Vs. Round Rock
6:35 p.m., 610 AM/95.9 FM
PROBABLES: Express RHP Cole Winn (3-0, 5.94) vs. Isotopes RHP Brandon Gold (2-0, 3.73).
TUESDAY: Round Rock plated multiple runs in three innings and registered 11 hits while the Isotopes went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left 10 on base as the Express took game one, 8-3, Tuesday night at Isotopes Park.
ISOTOPES NOTES: Albuquerque is 1-7 in series openers and 0-4 at home.
With the loss, the Isotopes are seven games below .500 for the first time all year.
Albuquerque has been held to three runs or fewer in nine of its last 17 games.
Tim Lopes extended his hitting streak to seven games. He also recorded his 13th multi-hit effort on the year, tied for most on the team with Wynton Bernard. Additionally, he had two doubles for the second time this year.
Ryan Vilade has a hit in seven of his last eight games.
D.J. Peterson had his fourth multi-hit game of the year and his first since April 30 against Sacramento.
(Click here for updated Pacific Coast League standings.)