The Albuquerque Isotopes managed to hit a little better Tuesday night. They also managed to pitch a lot worse.
Sam Demel gave up five runs early and the Isotopes never recovered in a 7-5 loss to the visiting Round Rock Express. Demel was brought out of the bullpen in May and has alternated between being either fairly good or quite bad.
In this start, Demel (1-2) was a punching bag for the Express (29-36), giving up those five runs on 10 hits over 3.1 innings. It was a sharp contrast to his six shutout innings against Tacoma last Thursday.
"It wasn't one of his better starts," manager Damon Berryhill said. "I think for the most part in his five starts he's given us three really good starts. He's been able to control the ballgame pretty well. He's kept us in games."
That Demel is being forced to start at all has shown the lack of pitching depth in the upper levels of the Dodgers farm system. Prior to this season, Demel had not started a game in 268 minor-league appearances.
With starter Matt Magill demoted to the bullpen and Stephen Fife on the disabled list, Albuquerque (30-35) has had no choice but to turn to Demel. Only two of the five starters at Chattanooga have ERAs under 6.00, so no help should be expected from Double-A, either.
"He'll probably get another start," Berryhill said of Demel. "I don't know of any changes coming this way. As of right now he's penciled in as a starter."
The Isotopes had a chance to rally with two outs in the ninth. Joc Pederson drew a walk and Clint Robinson then doubled to the gap in right-center, pulling Albuquerque within two runs.
Robinson would advance to third base on a wild pitch, but he was left stranded as Alex Liddi swung and missed at two pitches well out of the strike zone after having been ahead in the count 3-1. Liddi finished the game 0-for-5 with four strikeouts.
"Offensively we just didn't swing it," Berryhill said. "It's tough to win ballgames when you're not really producing up and down the lineup, when you're counting on one or two guys."
The Isotopes could never put a scoring rally together. Robinson had a two-out, RBI single in the first inning and hit a leadoff home run in the sixth, meaning he fell just a triple shy of the cycle.
In between, Mike Baxter tripled and scored on a groundout in the second inning. Carlos Triunfel singled and later scored on a passed ball in the fifth.
"It's kind of standard the way we go," Berryhill said. "When we produce up and down the lineup we tend to get W's. When we falter at the bottom or the top of the lineup we tend to struggle."
Albuquerque will look to keep Round Rock from clinching the series Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. The Isotopes will start right-hander Carlos Frias (3-4, 6.22 ERA) against Express lefty Ryan Feierabend (6-5, 3.91).