In a season in which Isotopes manager Warren Schaeffer and the Colorado Rockies brass up the road in Denver have made very clear that winning — not only player development — is a priority, the standings would suggest things aren’t going well for Albuquerque’s Triple-A baseball team.
But even at 12½ games out of first place in the Pacific Coast League East standings after splitting a Saturday doubleheader on Saturday — beating Reno 4-2 in the resumption of a postponed game from Friday and losing 7-4 in an eight-inning Game 2 — Schaeffer says he’s excited about the state of the team heading into the home stretch of the 2022 season.
“Yeah, man, I feel like we’re in a good place,” Schaeffer said. “We had a tough time against El Paso last week, but I feel like our lineup is clicking. And our pitchers are throwing the ball well, as you can see this homestand. This is a tough place to pitch, but we’ve pitched really well and got a good bullpen. We’ve got some new guys that are coming in that are a breath of fresh air.
“I think we’re in a good spot, man. I feel good going down the stretch and I feel like the boys they’re still in it. They want it.”
With 41 games left, including 21 home games at Isotopes Park (one make up game with El Paso has yet to be scheduled), chasing down the Oklahoma City Dodgers in the division standings might not be in the cards. But Schaeffer said narrowing the focus down to winning a series at a time can be a big step for the team.
That makes Sunday’s game with Reno a big one in Schaeffer’s mind. The Isotopes lead the series 3-2.
“We try to win every series,” Schaeffer said. “That’s how we go about it. That’s a good week if we win.”
WHAT DROUGHT? Thirteen of the past 22 home games for the Isotopes have either been delayed (before the game started), postponed (after it started) or suspended to a later date due to rain.
IT’S ABOUT TIME: Since Triple-A began enforcement of pace of play violations — automatic balls assessed when pitchers don’t pitch fast enough and automatic strikes assessed to hitters not getting into the batter’s box fast enough — game times have dropped significantly this season.
In the nine pre-enforcement Isotopes games (all nine-inning games), play time averaged 3 hours, 11 minutes. In the 87 nine-inning games since the average Isotopes game is played in 2:44.
This week’s series, however, is on pace to be the fastest series played this season by the ‘Topes and has had two of the 10 fastest nine-inning games played in Isotopes Park history (a 2:04 game on Tuesday and a 2:10 game on Thursday).
Through five games this series, the average time of play has been 2:19, though that includes Saturday night’s eight-inning game. The average time of play through the first four nine-inning games was 2:15.30.
The Isotopes have had only one series this season that didn’t include at least one 3-hour game (May 10-15 against Sugar Land that averaged 2:30 per game per game).
DON’T WALK: Including Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader in which Zach Neal threw three innings (one on Friday and two more on Saturday when the game was resumed), the Isotopes had three consecutive games in which their starting pitcher did not issue a walk. Brandon Gold issued no walks in 6 innings Thursday and Ashton Goudeau walked none in 4 innings Wednesday.
ATTENDANCE X2: There were two attendance figures announced on Saturday.
Game 1, a resumption of Friday night’s suspended Mariachis Night game, had an attendance of 9,740. That figure was based on the number of fans at Friday’s game because it was a resumption of a game that already started. Had the game not started on Friday and was just delayed by rain, then the attendance for Saturday would have counted.
Saturday’s schedule game — Game 2 of the double header — had an announced attendance of 7,471.