The Albuquerque Isotopes had high hopes coming into their just-completed 12-game homestand. Those hopes were dashed by a pair of series splits sandwiched around a four-game sweep that left the Isotopes with eight losses in those 12 games.
Albuquerque (17-18) fell back under .500 with a 12-3 loss to Sacramento (17-18) in the finale on Friday night. The River Cats scored 11 runs in the first two innings and never looked back.
"Generally you come home for a 12-day homestand and you hope to at least get six of those games," manager Damon Berryhill said. "But it didn't turn out that way. If we don't start a better job pitching, it'll be tough on the road, too. We need to get some quality starts out of our starters and when we do we need our pen to come in and give us a good, solid effort.
"Right now we've just been struggling. It's tough offensively when you look up early in the game and you're down by five. We have to clean that part of it up."
The Isotopes saw starter Henry Sosa, who entered the game with a 2.61 ERA, lay an egg. He started the game by loading the bases on three walks. Nate Freiman then ripped a two-run double to put his team ahead for good.
Sosa then went walk, sacrifice fly, walk and finally gave up a two-run single before he was mercifully pulled. Reliever Steve Smith let one inherited runner score, making Sosa's final line a heinous one-third of an inning pitched, two hits, six earned runs and five walks.
"Health-wise he's fine, he hasn't complained of any issues or anything," Berryhill said. "He just had a tough time throwing strikes. He couldn't find the strike zone at all."
Smith fared little better in the second inning, allowing five runs on four hits and two walks. He eventually settled down and got Albuquerque through the fifth, but the damage had been done.
"Smitty struggled in his second inning out there a little bit," Berryhill said. "And then settled down and gave us three good innings."
Offensively, the Isotopes never seemed to wake up against Zach Neal (2-1), who went seven innings, allowing just three runs. Trayvon Robinson had an RBI single in the fifth, while Jamie Romak hit a two-run homer in the seventh. That was it for Albuquerque's lineup.
"It was just one of those days where it's just too much to overcome," Berryhill said. "It's one of those ballgames where you're looking at 11 and if you don't put up a couple of big numbers early it's hard to get rolling."
If there was a small silver lining, it was the return of shortstop Carlos Triunfel and catcher Tim Federowicz to the lineup. Triunfel had his left hand stepped on Tuesday night, while Federowicz had missed four games with a bone bruise on his left hand.
"Carlos is fine," Berryhill said. "Fed, he's dealing with more of a deep bone bruise type thing where it might take him a little bit longer to get back to 100 percent. Both those guys will get some playing time now and try to get going again."
The Isotopes will take the bus to El Paso for the first time Saturday for a four-game series with the Chihuahuas. Albuquerque will not return home until May 23 against Reno.