SALT LAKE CITY — Most of the Salt Lake Bees' struggles this season have been on the mound. Heading into Wednesday's game, Salt Lake had a less-than-pretty team ERA of 6.50.
After a second-straight quality start, however, things may be changing for the Bees.
Wade LeBlanc pitched eight shutout innings, scattering four hits and striking out six, as Salt Lake (15-31) beat Albuquerque 3-0 in front of a crowd of 4,355 at Smith's Ballpark.
"He was awesome," Bees manager Keith Johnson said. "He did a great job, used all four of his pitches, and he was hitting his spots all night. He kept them off-balance, his tempo was great, and the guys behind him did a good job in making outs."
Between May 1 and May 19, Salt Lake pitchers allowed less than five runs in a game just three times and the Bees went 3-17 in that span. Even as the losses piled up, Johnson often praised the offensive performance of the club and laid the blame squarely on Salt Lake's inability to get outs.
"I have just been preaching to the guys, just make outs — outs — and let the great plays take care of themselves," Johnson said. "Nobody made a great play (Wednesday). We made routine plays and we won the game."
LeBlanc set the tone early, striking out the first batter he saw, and he kept dealing from there. The Isotopes' first hit came in the fourth inning when Miguel Rojas singled to center, but LeBlanc got Joc Pederson to ground into an inning-ending double play. That was a trend for the game as Albuquerque never had a man reach second base.
"As you get into the second month of the season and on from there, pitchers are able to settle into their routines a little better and learn their catchers and learn the hitters," LeBlanc said. "I think as a whole staff we are starting to turn it around."
After retiring the side in the eighth, LeBlanc showed no signs of slowing down. However, Angels relief pitcher Dane De La Rosa is on a rehab assignment with the Bees and was scheduled to pitch. As a result, De La Rosa finished off the shutout for the Bees.
"You always want to go back in the ninth," LeBlanc said. "That's the fourth time in my career that I would have had a chance at a complete game, but a rehab guy had to get an inning — but he is definitely a lot more important to the Angels than I am."
Bees 3, Albuquerque 0
Bees manager Keith Johnson's take: "We've played two fundamentally sound games in a row. ... Everything is contagious. Pitching is contagious, hitting is contagious, winning is contagious."
Up next: Albuquerque at Salt Lake, Thursday, 6:35 p.m.