One defensive miscue does not a game make, but in this case a costly error ended up the difference Sunday night. The Salt Lake Bees defeated the host Albuquerque Isotopes 4-3, with an unearned run looming large.
The play in question came in the sixth inning. After Luis Jimenez tripled with one out and Efren Navarro drew a walk, Brennan Boesch hit a high chopper toward second baseman Miguel Rojas.
Rojas fielded the ball awkwardly and then tried to start a double play, but his throw to shortstop Carlos Triunfel was way off the mark, skittering into left field. Jimenez scored easily and Navarro raced around from first base to make it 3-2 in favor of Salt Lake (21-37).
"I know what Miggy was trying to do, he was trying to rush it so we had an opportunity to turn it," manager Damon Berryhill said. "But unfortunately he threw it up the line and two runs ended up scoring on that play."
Seven of the Isotopes' last eight games have been decided by a single run. Unfortunately, Albuquerque has gone 2-5 in those games.
"This is just a tough stretch, really," Berryhill said. "If you look back at the Sacramento series, (in) every one of those games they pulled a defensive play that was just unbelievable and ended up saving them one or multiple runs. That could have broken those games open.
"Defensively they've been making all the plays against us. It's come down to we lose a one-run game because we make a defensive mistake. If you're locked in those one-run games you've got to be flawless on defense, because that's usually what ends up costing you."
Tommy Field's two-out, RBI double in the seventh gave the Bees a needed insurance run. Rojas would try to atone for his error with a leadoff double in the eighth. Clint Robinson smacked an RBI single to right field to pull Albuquerque (25-31) within a run, but the Isotopes would get no closer.
Offensively, the team struggled all game. Joc Pederson was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts while Mike Baxter was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
"We just didn't swing the bats well, bottom line," Berryhill said. "I'd like to say they pitched a great game against us, but we took a lot of fastball strikes and swung through a lot of fastballs. We should be doing a better job hitting those baseballs."
Starter Red Patterson (2-5) was not at his sharpest, but he battled his way through six innings. The right-hander allowed three runs, two earned, on six hits and two walks while striking out six.
"I thought Red had his good stuff," Berryhill said. "I thought he pitched fine. What did he end up giving up? Three (runs)? That's a pretty solid outing in the PCL."
Albuquerque had taken a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning on back-to-back, two-out RBI doubles by Trayvon Robinson and Johnny Monell. Salt Lake came right back in the fifth as back-to-back singles by Zach Borenstein and Anderson de la Rosa left runners at the corners, enabling John Hester to hit a sacrifice fly that pulled the Bees within 2-1.
Dustin Richardson only lasted 3.2 innings as Salt Lake's starter. Reliever Yeiper Castillo (1-0), making his Triple-A debut, then tossed 3.1 scoreless innings, not allowing a hit or a walk while striking out two batters.
"You want to give them credit, it's not like they didn't pitch good, but we had a ton of hittable pitches that we didn't put in play," Berryhill said. "We've got to do a better job."
The Isotopes and Bees will meet again Monday at 7:05 p.m. Albuquerque will start right-hander Jeff Bennett (1-1, 1.45 ERA) against Salt Lake lefty Brooks Raley (0-2, 9.72).