The Albuquerque Isotopes opened their season on Thursday at Isotopes Park against the Salt Lake Bees, as the Bees took the first matchup of the year 11-4.
Prior to the start of the game, the Isotopes honored World War II Navajo Code Talker Thomas Begay, who served as part of the 5th Marine Division Signal Company. He had the opportunity to throw a ceremonial first pitch alongside Mayor of Albuquerque Tim Keller, who was also presented with a customized Mariachis jersey, as well as a check for just shy of $1.5 million dollars to pay for the team's use of the stadium.
Jeff Hoffman got the start for the Isotopes, but never really settled into the game. The Bees chased him after just 3 2/3 innings and giving up six hits, four runs, four walks, three strikeouts and two hit batters. After escaping trouble in the first, Hoffman was tagged for three runs in the second to give Salt Lake the early 3-0 lead.
"I thought Hoff was flat, for him you just have to throw this one out." manager Glenallen Hill said of his starter. "He struggled to get into his rhythm."
Hill wasn't happy with the way the team performed offensively, but singled out the at-bats taken by Josh Fuentes, Noel Cuevas and Roberto Ramos as among the best of the night for his team.
Fuentes, the reigning Pacific Coast League MVP picked up right where he left off, hitting a solo home run to left field in the bottom of the second to start off his season that gave the crowd of 6,187 its first opportunity to cheer. He would end the night having gone 2-for-3 with a walk, two runs batted in and one run scored.
Ramos, the No. 27 prospect in the Rockies system, went 1-for-3 in his Triple-A debut, hitting a two-run home run in the sixth inning, the final runs of the game for the Isotopes. He also walked once and struck out once.
Salt Lake and Albuquerque traded runs in the fourth, as each team added one to their tally. The Isotopes run came off the bat of Fuentes, who drove home Cuevas on an RBI double but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple to end the inning.
Ramos, who has already been nicknamed the "Mariachi Masher" by Isotopes broadcaster Josh Suchon, added his home run in the sixth, but only after reliever Mitch Horacek had given up a grand slam in the top half of the frame that doubled the Bees' run total from four to eight.
Matt Pierpont, who came on in relief of Hoffman in the fourth, was the only one of the six pitchers for Albuquerque who didn't allow a run, including stranding both of his inherited runners.
In the limited situations where the Isotopes put runners in scoring position, they failed to do anything with those opportunities, going 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. On the other side, the Bees were 8-for-20 in those situations.
The two teams face off again on Friday night at 6:35 p.m., with Rockies No. 4 prospect according to MLB Pipeline Peter Lambert taking the mound against the Bees. The first Mariachis de Nuevo Mexico game of the season will follow on Saturday, with the starter in that matchup still to be announced.
Cameron Goeldner is a senior reporter and photographer for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s soccer, women’s basketball, softball and the Albuquerque Isotopes, but also contributes content for all other sports. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @goeldfinger.