The official midway point of this 144-game season came and went two weeks ago. The unofficial recognition begins Saturday night in southern Nevada. However it’s measured, this troubling first half cannot end soon enough for the Albuquerque Isotopes.
Visiting El Paso’s 6-4 victory on Wednesday night was the final home game for the Isotopes before the All-Star break – and through 86 games, Albuquerque, which sports a PCL-worst record of 34-52, would probably prefer to 86 these last 3½ months.
“These guys are all looking forward to the break,” hitting coach John Shelby said.
Realistically, all that remains for this Isotopes bunch is to try and salvage the final 2½ months of the season.
“There’s a lot of great optimism, a lot of character, on this team – two things that make a winning ballclub,” said outfielder Stephen Cardullo. “There’s no reason we can’t come out and take care of business (in the second half).”
Shelby was filling in Wednesday for manager Glenallen Hill, who was attending to a personal matter in California. Hill will rejoin the club in Las Vegas, where the Isotopes begin a four-games-in-three-days series tonight leading into the midseason break.
Albuquerque was one of only three teams in the 16-team PCL – Omaha and Tacoma being the other two – to not have more than one consecutive home series between May 31 and the Triple-A All-Star Game, which is Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C. Neither of the other two has alternated home and away series the way the Isotopes have for the last 5½ weeks, however.
“I’m not blaming the schedule with the way we’ve been playing, but it is a taxing schedule,” said Shelby. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Now I know how umpires feel.”
After Wednesday, Albuquerque is 5-18 in its last 23 games.
On a positive note, outfielder David Dahl continued his torrid start with Albuquerque, going 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles and two RBIs on Wednesday before an announced crowd of 7,476. Dahl is 10-for-15 in three games here this week as the Isotopes hit the road.
There are single games today and Saturday in Vegas, with a doubleheader Friday.
The Isotopes will get an eight-game homestand coming out of the All-Star Game, starting a week from today. But this upcoming second half will be a matter of pride more than it will be a push for the playoffs, as Albuquerque fell 17 games behind the division-leading Chihuahuas after Wednesday’s setback.
Only Sacramento has been worse at home this season in the PCL than the Isotopes.
The difference Wednesday boiled down to one unfortunate error by right fielder Mike Tauchman in the top of the fourth. With a runner at first and two outs, Alexi Amarista singled in Tauchman’s direction.
But Tauchman misplayed it, and ball went under his glove and rolled all the way to the wall. The runner at first, Austin Hedges, easily scored, and Amarista circled the bases as well to give El Paso, at the time, a 3-1 lead. Those two unearned runs loomed large over the final outcome.
“He tried to come up a little quick and took his eye off it,” Shelby said.
Albuquerque fell to 18-25 at Isotopes Park this season.