Twenty games into the Pacific Coast League season, Salt Lake Keith Johnson likes what he sees, despite the Bees’ 7-13 record.
"We’re in a great place," Johnson said after Tuesday’s 6-4 loss to Albuquerque at wind-blown Smith’s Ballpark. " … One through 25, I feel very comfortable where we are right now."
Mostly, Johnson likes the improvement his starting pitchers have shown.
Against Albuquerque, for example, Jose Alvarez returned from the parent Los Angeles Angels and pitched into the fifth inning. He gave up five hits, allowed only one run and left the game when it was tied, 1-1.
"Our starters are getting lengthened out," Johnson said. " … We’ve been through the rotation three times now and we’re getting better. I’m looking forward to seeing these guys go out and do what we know they’re capable of."
The Bees struggled against the Isotopes. Only two of their final 15 batters reached base.
In all, Salt Lake managed only four hits — only the third time this season the Bees haven’t had at least seven.
"We’re doing a lot of good things," Johnson said. "We just have to do a better job of scoring runners from third base with less than two outs. That’s been our problem on the offensive side. We’ve left quite a few runs out there."
Conditions for the series finale against Albuquerque were hardly optimal, with the wind howling toward home plate all afternoon.
"The hardest thing is just staying loose," Johnson said. "It’s irritating because there was … some grit flying around today. But it is … baseball. We play it outside for a reason and we have to deal with those things when they happen."
After Alvarez left the game, Salt Lake took a 3-1 lead in the bottom half of the fifth inning on Grant Green’s two-out, two-run double to deep left center field.
The Isotopes rallied, however, against the Bees’ bullpen. Four relievers allowed seven hits and five runs in 41⁄3 innings.
Green went 1 for 4 for Salt Lake and finished the four-game series with seven hits in 16 at-bats. He drove in seven runs.
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