As the three-day Triple-A All-Star Break winds down, preparations are underway for what promises to be an exciting couple of months at Isotopes Park.
First, the ‘Topes are coming out of the break strong promotionally, with the annual fan-favorite Orbit Bobblehead giveaway on Friday, followed by a very special appearance by the Famous Chicken on Saturday. Look for the Chicken to be omnipresent on the Albuquerque airwaves on Friday in preparation for his appearance, his first-ever at Isotopes Park.
Second, the way the schedule shapes up, the Isotopes are going to be home a lot in the weeks and months to come. Beginning tomorrow, the ‘Topes will play 12 home games in 16 days, 20 contests in 28 days, and 33 home tilts in the next 50 days, which is great news for a team that is starting to play extremely well at Isotopes Park. In their last 11 games played in the Duke City, the ‘Topes are 9-2 and are coming off a three-game series sweep of the Memphis Redbirds in early July. Overall this season, Albuquerque is 22-17 in front of its home fans.
Third, on the field the Isotopes are coalescing into a superb squad. Going around the horn, Blake DeWitt at third, Chin-Lung Hu at short, Tony Abreu at second, and red-hot J.D. Closser at first all have Major League experience. Toss in A.J. Ellis at catcher, one of the great young catchers in Minor League baseball and the ‘Topes are unbelievably strong at each infield position. The return of Mitch Jones, tied for the PCL lead in homers with 22, also adds some pop and bolsters an outfield that is already deep with Dee Brown, Jason Repko, and Jamie Hoffmann.
That’s not even taking in account the Isotopes’ strength, which has been pitching. Triple-A All-Star knuckleballer Charlie Haeger anchors a rotation that also includes Giancarlo Alvarado, Josh Lindblom, and for the time being, Big League lefty Eric Stults, while Erick Threets has established himself as one of the most dominant pitchers in the PCL and closer Scott Strickland is racing up the Pacific Coast League leaderboard in saves.
Long story short, this is probably the most complete team the Isotopes have ever fielded, and features the best pitching staff in team history by far.
It’s been five long years since Albuquerque baseball fans got a taste of the post-season and the way things are lining up after the All-Star Break, could this be the year the Isotopes claim their first division crown since 2003?
Stay tuned… it’s going to be fun.