At the rate things are going, the Albuquerque Isotopes are going to be hoping another Hartford Yard Goats outfielder arrives every week.
Raimel Tapia went 4-for-7 in his Triple-A debut Tuesday night as the Isotopes swept the Las Vegas 51s 7-0 and 4-3 in a doubleheader.
"I feel awesome and it felt like home right away," Tapia said, with teammate Simon Castro acting as his translator, in what was technically the first home game Tapia played all year after being on the Yard Goats’ endless road trip. "It’s all great. As soon as I got here, I felt welcome, especially from the fans today."
Tapia singled in his first three at-bats in the opener while adding two stolen bases and two runs scored. He later added an RBI.
"He is a contact hitter and his first three hits, one went to the 4-3-hole, one went in the 5-hole and one went up the middle," manager Glenallen Hill said. "Very nice."
In the second game, he doubled down the right-field line to lead off the first inning, a hit that could have been a triple if the ball person had not picked up the live ball by mistake.
Tapia would later score on Stephen Cardullo’s two-run homer to left field.
Hill noted that there was only place left to go for Tapia’s next hit.
"Except down the left field line, so chances are (today) his first hit will be down the left field line," Hill said.
In a way, though, Tapia’s debut in the opener might have been overshadowed by right-hander Eddie Butler (6-2). He tossed a three-hit shutout over seven innings, allowing just a trio of singles, two walks and struck out three.
It was the first shutout by an Isotopes pitcher since Dana Eveland in 2011.
"Everyone has been waiting for him to show some consistency and show some pitchability and some maturation on the mound in terms of keeping his emotions in check and learning how to pitch in his natural rhythm and just trust that," Hill said. "There were times tonight, if you go back and look at the videotape, he was just in his flow. It was like his tempo in between pitches, what he did in between pitches, was exactly the same. You could tell he was comfortable in that tempo and that allowed him not to overthrow for the most part. That’s good to see with him."
Tom Murphy also went 2-for-4 with two runs, a double, triple and an RBI in the opener. Ben Paulsen was 3-for-4 with a home run and four RBI.
In the second game, lefty Kyle Freeland (3-2) was good enough, allowing three runs on four hits and three walks while striking out three batters.
"I thought that he pitched well," Hill said, though he noted that Freeland needed to be calmed down by catcher Dustin Garneau to start the sixth. That was due to, of all things, Freeland being mad about grounding out in his previous at-bat. Hill praised Garneau for the move, though it also showed that Freeland still has a ways to go in terms of harnessing his own emotions on the mound.
"He was seething and Garneau recognized that and he went out there, which was a good thing on our catcher’s part," Hill said. "(Today) or the next day we’ll talk to Free about that and tell him that those are the kind of things that you cannot allow to distract him from his focus."
Freeland left with the game tied before the Isotopes (52-64) manufactured the winning run in their half of the sixth. Mike Tauchman drew a leadoff walk and Cardullo followed with a high chopper that dropped in for an infield single. Jordan Patterson dropped down the perfect sacrifice bunt to move Tauchman to third and Garneau cashed in with a sacrifice fly to left.
"I called Jordan in here and told him that that is exactly what this organization is all about," Hill said. "In that situation late you’ve got to let go of your ego, focus on the task at hand. I was very proud of him that he was committed to that sacrifice bunt. He was able to get it done and we were able to score the run."
Matt Carasiti gave up a leadoff single in the seventh before inducing a double-play grounder and a flyout to left to earn his second save.
The Isotopes will go for the series sweep over Las Vegas today at 6:35 p.m.