SALT LAKE CITY — Coming off a 0-for-3 effort at the plate Saturday night, in his first appearance of the season, Salt Lake Bees infielder Sherman Johnson remained hopeful.
“I wasn’t really mad about my game yesterday, to be honest,” said Johnson. “I hit two balls hard to start the game. I didn’t get any hits, but I thought I hit the ball hard.”
Not only was he optimistic about his own prospects at the plate, he had seen glimmers of what his Bees teammates were capable of.
“There are some guys in the (locker room) that can really hit,” said Johnson. “It is going to be fun to be a part of.”
Unfortunately for the Bees, as has been the case throughout much of the season-opening series with the Albuquerque Isotopes, there wasn’t much fun to be had Sunday afternoon at Smith’s Ballpark.
Led by catcher Tom Murphy, who finished the game 3 for 4 with three runs scored and two RBIs, as well as shortstop Anthony Phillips, who finished 3 for 5 with three RBIs, the Isotopes defeated the Bees 11-4.
Albuquerque scored three runs in the third inning and five in a decisive fifth inning, to run away with the win.
Perhaps the only bright spot of the game for Salt Lake was Johnson. The third baseman finished the game 3 for 4 with a homer and two doubles, proving his optimism warranted.
“Today I just kind of stuck with it,” said Johnson. “Our hitting coach just told me to stick with it and try to get a pitch that I could handle and hit it as hard as I can. That is what I was trying to do.”
The rest of the team disappointed, however.
Starting pitcher Alex Klonowski gave up four runs on six hits in just four innings.
The relievers that followed him didn’t do much better, if at all.
Then there were the Bees' bats, which were quiet for much of the afternoon.
“It is still early and we are still working,” said Johnson. “It’s just one of those things. It’s baseball. Hopefully soon as a unit we will get clicking.”
COUNTING STARS: With very few exceptions, the Bees bullpen has been completely beaten down and kicked around by the Isotopes.
Through the first three games of the series, Salt Lake relievers allowed 18 runs on 23 hits, including four home runs.
The chief culprits behind the struggles were RHP Vicente Campos (five runs allowed in two and two-thirds innings) and RHP Adam Hofacket (three runs given up in one and a third innings).
Somehow, things got even worse Sunday.
After Klonowski’s struggles, Salt Lake turned to newcomer Jon Malmin. Unfortunately, the lefty out of Troy, Texas, did not impress.
Malmin was battered by the Isotopes and lasted all of two innings, having given up five runs on four hits.
He was replaced by BYU alum Taylor Cole, one of the exceptions.
Through two outings, Cole has proven himself one of the best the Bees have out of the bullpen.
In his first outing on opening night, Cole pitched two scoreless inning, striking out two Isotopes.
Cole was less impressive on Sunday. He gave up an RBI double to Murphy and a sacrifice fly by Derrick Gibson, but still managed to go one and two-thirds innings.
REASON TO BELIEVE: One of the few bright spots for Salt Lake in the series has been outfielder Jabari Blash.
The native of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands native has been excellent at the plate, displaying the kind of pop that the Bees have long been lacking.
Through four games, Blash is 5 for 13 with four RBIs. Blash is the team leader in extra base hits with four, and has a homer, a triple and two doubles.
Blash has flashed some serious skill in the outfield as well. He had two outfield assists in Saturday night's game and is currently at the top of the PCL leaderboard in that defensive category.
Isotopes — 11
Bees — 4
In short: The Isotopes battered the Bees pitching staff, scoring 11 runs on 15 hits.
Up next: Albuquerque RHP Chris Jensen (0-0, 0.00) at Salt Lake RHP Osmer Morales (0-0, 0.00), Monday, 12:05 p.m.