The weather is warming up in Albuquerque, but the Isotopes' bats remain in a deep freeze. The Fresno Grizzlies took advantage of a punchless lineup for eight innings before holding on for a 6-4 victory on Saturday night.
Albuquerque (15-14) has not scored more than six runs in any of the six games on its current homestand. The Isotopes are just 2-4 as a result.
"We've been struggling of late, that's no secret," manager Damon Berryhill said. "You'd like to give their starter credit, but I think we're just giving him too much credit and trying to be too fine instead of just getting a pitch out over the plate and taking good rips. It looks like we're looking for certain locations and just second-guessing and trying to guess instead of trying to be aggressive, getting a good pitch and let it fly."
A packed house of 13,717 fans watched the home team flail away until the ninth inning. Jamie Romak's leadoff home run in the fifth inning was all the offense that Albuquerque could muster against Jason Berken (4-1).
Berken dominated the Isotopes for the second straight start. He allowed just one run in seven innings after having tossed seven shutout frames in Fresno on April 27.
The best scoring opportunities that fizzled out came in the second and fifth innings. In the second, the Isotopes had two on with one out, but Miguel Rojas grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. In the fifth, Albuquerque loaded the bases with one out, only to see Mike Baxter hit into another 6-4-3 double play.
"I think it just goes back to going up there and out-thinking themselves," Berryhill said. "Instead of getting on the fastball and adjusting to the offspeed stuff, look for a good pitch out over the plate and let it rip."
The only real surge of offense came in the ninth inning. Trayvon Robinson drew a one-out walk, followed two batters later by Miguel Rojas' bloop single to shallow center field.
Pinch hitter Alex Guerrero then smacked a broken-bat RBI single to left field. Carlos Triunfel ripped a two-run single to right field, forcing Fresno (14-16) to turn to closer Heath Hembree. The right-hander struck out Joc Pederson on an 83 mph breaking ball to earn his sixth save.
"I think we're giving them a little too much credit, thinking that they're going to be perfect and we've got to be perfect with them," Berryhill said. "Instead of capitalizing on the mistakes they did make, we're ending up taking a lot of hittable fastballs and getting ourselves out on borderline pitches."
A combination of a couple of costly errors and some ineffective pitching for Henry Sosa (1-1) did not help Albuquerque. Third baseman Romak's throwing error started the second inning off on a bad note.
Chris Dominguez then smashed an RBI triple off the center field hill, but Dominguez got greedy and was thrown out at home. It did not matter much as Guillermo Quiroz singled, followed two batters later by Berken's RBI double.
Sosa then gave up three straight singles, driving in two more runs as Fresno took a 4-0 lead. None of the runs were earned due to the error.
In the fourth, a dropped catch by Romak left runners at the corners with one out. Tyler Colvin would later drive in Gary Brown with a sacrifice fly to make it 5-0.
All told, Sosa allowed five runs, all unearned, on 10 hits in five innings. He struck out six and did not walk anyone.
"It's just pitch location," Berryhill said. "You've just got to make better pitches to stay out of those big innings."
Nick Struck made his Isotopes debut in the sixth and tossed two scoreless innings. Yimi Garcia gave up an earned run in the eighth, the Grizzlies' only one of the game.
Albuquerque and Fresno will meet again Sunday at 1:35 p.m. The Isotopes will start former Lobos right-hander Steve Smith (0-1, 9.00 ERA) against the Grizzlies' Chris Heston (1-2, 3.45).