Jeff Hoffman’s first start since July 5 did not last long Wednesday night.
The right-hander was limited to 76 pitches over 3.2 innings, in which he allowed three runs on four hits and two walks while striking out four as the Albuquerque Isotopes lost 7-5 to the Nashville Sounds. Albuquerque’s record-tying nine-game winning streak came to an abrupt halt.
The abbreviated start was not due to injury, nor a potential call-up. Hoffman had not started for the Isotopes since July 5, and save for one inning at the All-Star Futures Game on July 10, he had been idle for quite a while.
"We knew that he was going to go up to a certain amount of pitches," manager Glenallen Hill said.
Limiting that pitch count for one game was part of a larger plan. Hoffman only threw 104 innings at three stops last season as he was coming off Tommy John surgery. It would make sense that the Rockies would want to be cautious and not exceed that number by an egregious count this season. Including Wednesday, Hoffman is now at 102 innings.
"Anytime you have a pitcher that is on a (strict) pitch count you would say we are aware of his body of work," Hill said, though he would not reveal what the final inning limit will be.
Hoffman (4-8) only threw 44 of those 76 pitches for strikes, with most of those being fastballs that sat between 94-97 mph. At times Hoffman’s curveball, nearly 20 mph slower than his fastball, was quite effective, at others he was missing the strike zone with it. Hoffman left with two outs and a runner on first, chirping at home plate umpire Anthony Johnson en route to the Isotopes dugout.
"He tried to add more to what he was doing instead of just slowing down the game and controlling what he could control," Hill said. "He’s got a big motor and sometimes you lets the RPMs go way up too high, too often. You like those RPMs being high, but he definitely didn’t need to get extra in that fourth inning and he was trying to get extra and it showed in his ability to execute pitches."
Reliever Patrick McCoy allowed both inherited runners to score, plus a third run before he finally struck out Chad Pinder to end the ugly inning with the Isotopes down 4-1.
As for the rest of the game, there were a few positives despite the final score. Ben Paulsen went 3-for-3 with a solo home run. All three outfielders — Stephen Cardullo in left, David Dahl in center, Jordan Patterson in right — had outstanding diving/sliding catches. Dahl went 2-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to 13 games. Matt Flemer tossed four scoreless innings of relief.
On the downside, Tom Murphy went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. Sam Moll allowed three runs in one ugly inning of relief, which proved crucial as Albuquerque scored four runs in the ninth but ended up short, with Rafael Ynoa grounding into a fielder’s choice while Dahl waited on deck.
"I just take away from that game that we let that one get away from us early and we mounted an attack late and we just didn’t have enough at the end," Hill said. "But these guys have been playing very good for a while now. I’m hoping that we come out tomorrow and play high-quality baseball."
The Isotopes can still win the series in the finale today at 12:05 p.m.