Team meetings are rare for the Albuquerque Isotopes this season. It is not really manager Glenallen Hill’s style, but for the second time he was forced to talk to his team about their hitting woes on Wednesday.
If the last two results are any indication, what Hill said carried weight. The Isotopes busted out 16 hits en route to a 12-3 rout of the visiting Omaha Storm Chasers on Thursday night for their second straight victory.
“We’ve got a manager who really cares about us,” designated hitter Ryan Casteel said. “I think as a player that speaks volumes. We knew that, but I think it reassured us and reaffirmed it. Anytime you have a guy who cares as much about his players as G Hill, it makes you want to go out and put it all on the line.”
For Hill, knowing when to call his team together is just as important as what he says to them. He did so early in the season and they rattled off a four-game winning streak.
“I don’t like to be that guy that’s always commanding the floor,” Hill said. “I try to stay out of the clubhouse. I feel that focuses the light on doing what they can do on an individual basis and holding each other accountable.”
The offense carried Albuquerque (20-29) in the opener of the series with Omaha (24-25). Casteel led the way, going 3-for-5, falling a triple short of the cycle, and driving in four runs.
“We’ve been hit or miss and we’ve been trying to turn it around, so I think that meeting came at a good time,” Casteel said. “We went out and we had a (turnaround), so I think that’s big.”
Matt McBride was 3-for-4 with three RBI and Kyle Parker went 3-for-5 with three runs scored. Even Roger Bernadina, batting ninth, got into the act by going 3-for-4 with two RBI.
“It felt good to come out today and swing the bats well, have good at-bats and honestly that’s all you really need,” McBride said. “Just try to go out there, forget about the road trip and honestly just have good, quality at-bats and try to make them productive.”
That was more than enough run support for Yohan Flande (1-0), who was making his Albuquerque debut after being sent down by the Rockies. The lefty allowed three runs on nine hits while striking out four and not allowing a walk in 5.2 innings.
Omaha’s Yohan Pino (2-2) was pummeled for eight runs on 11 hits and three walks in 4.2 innings of work. He did strike out seven batters, including six of seven men faced at one point, but it was too little, too late.
The Isotopes broke open the game in the third inning as the first eight batters of the inning reached base. Five of those came around to score and make it 6-1.
The Storm Chasers cut that lead in half with two runs in the fifth, only to see Bernadina push the advantage back to five with a two-run double in the bottom of the frame. Albuquerque added two more runs in the sixth, followed by Casteel’s mammoth two-run homer to left in the seventh that nearly cleared the ballpark.
It was a nice recovery for the lineup after the Isotopes managed just one extra-base hit in losing three of four games at New Orleans. That hit was a home run by Parker, who remains one of the team’s hottest hitters, having batted .366 (15-for-41) in his last 10 games.
“I think he is learning how to make in-bat adjustments,” Hill said. “What you saw early on this season he was totally committed to forcing the action and there weren’t a lot of adjustments being made. He’s been working with (hitting coach Dave Hajek) and he’s been having fun.”
Albuquerque and Omaha will meet again Saturday at 7:05 p.m. Right-hander Boone Whiting, signed recently as a free agent, will make his Isotopes debut against Storm Chasers lefty Brandon Finnegan (0-0, 9.00 ERA).