The biggest surprise of the Albuquerque Isotopes’ game on Friday night came before it even started.
Manager Glenallen Hill got a phone call from the Colorado Rockies’ front office to pull starting pitcher Jeff Hoffman before he threw a pitch. The call did not come with an explanation for why.
“I was just told to take him out, so I follow orders, good soldier,” Hill said.
While speculation can now run rampant as to Hoffman’s fate this weekend, the Isotopes still had a game to play. They came up short in a 7-5 loss to the visiting Sacramento River Cats, but in a way it was still a victory.
One night after using six relievers, Albuquerque (28-26) needed just three pitchers to get through nine innings.
“That’s a win, that is a victory for us,” Hill said. “A lot of people don’t understand that part of managing the season is managing your bullpen. We were able to give some guys some rest that pitched multiple innings (Thursday). We were able to complete a game with three pitchers. That’s going to help us out three days from now, and that’s what we need.”
Johendi Jiminian got the start and went three innings, allowing two runs on four hits and one walk while striking out two. C.C. Lee tossed the next three innings, also giving up two runs on a home run by Jae-Gyun Hwang, while striking out five.
Thad Weber, brought off the temporary inactive list before the game, was called upon for the final three. It was his first outing since May 22. He gave up Chris Shaw’s two-out RBI single in the eighth that tied it up before surrendering two runs in a bizarre ninth inning.
Juan Ciriaco led off with a double and John Polonius put down a sacrifice bunt, only for Weber to try for the out at third. His throw was late and both runners were safe.
Pinch hitter Juniel Querecuto followed with a sac bunt of his own and the throw home was late, allowing Ciriaco to score the winning run. After another sac bunt, which did result in an out, moved Polonius to third, Hwang followed with a sac-fly for the insurance run.
“I’m proud of our guys, they showed up and they competed,” Hill said. “Weber hadn’t pitched in a competitive game for a couple weeks. I think he was as sharp as he could be.”
The Isotopes jumped out with a four-run first inning against Giants top prospect Tyler Beede. Raimel Tapia hit a leadoff home run and three straight-two out hits led to three additional runs.
After that, Beeded gave up one run in the second before settling in and dominating the next four innings.
“I think he’s very good,” Hill said. “He threw some big-league pitches.”
Tapia’s home run was his first of the season. He swung and missed with a home run cut in the ninth inning as he ended up grounding out to shortstop to end the game with a runner on second.
Will Tapia keep talking about that home run after Friday?
“No, if he does talk about the home run he’ll be benched for three days,” Hill said with a laugh.
Despite the loss, the Isotopes remained in an upbeat mood from the manager on down.
“Absolutely, yeah, they’re army ants,” Hill said of his players. “If anyone knows anything about army ants, they are relentless on the task. They will sacrifice themselves, sacrifice their bodies to get to where they need to be. They’re in a good place.”
Albuquerque and Sacramento will continue their series Saturday at 7:05 p.m. Lefty Ryan Carpenter (2-4, 5.06 ERA) is projected to start for the Isotopes against River Cats right-hander Chris Stratton (0-3, 6.88).