The 51s had an opportunity for their first series sweep of the season Wednesday night but fell flat, dropping the series finale to the Salt Lake Bees 12-5 at Cashman Field.
After the first inning, it looked as if starter Rafael Montero would have the strong outing that he needed. He has allowed at least four earned runs in every outing since June 25, a span of seven starts. Three outs into Wednesday, he had two strikeouts and a groundout.
Then the wheels fell off.
“I can’t pinpoint it,” Las Vegas manager Wally Backman said.
The first four Bees reached base via two singles, a fielder’s choice that did not get an out and a walk. The next two were retired before a single and a double gave Salt Lake a 5-0 lead after two innings.
It didn’t get much better after that. Montero allowed two runs in the third with two outs and three in the fourth inning on a three-run homer by Nick Buss. Montero was pulled without recording an out in the fourth and his team down 10-4.
His final line: a season-low three-plus innings and a season-high 10 runs (all earned) on nine hits. He walked three and struck out three. His ERA is now 7.20.
“I saw this kid when he was right next to (Jacob) deGrom,” Backman said. “It’s frustrating to see the direction he’s gone since then. The velocity there, everything’s there, he just needs to come back with the control that he once had.”
Despite the string of poor outings, Backman said Montero is in no danger of losing his spot in the Las Vegas rotation.
“As of now, he’s just going to stick it out,” Backman said. “We haven’t even discussed any of that.”
If there were any positives for the 51s, they were Dilson Herrera and the bullpen.
Herrera missed the past six games because of a tight hamstring and returned with a 2-for-3 game with a run scored, four RBIs and his 12th homer of the season before being lifted for a pinch runner in the seventh inning.
Backman said Herrera was not pulled because of his hamstring.
“Dilson’s a good player,” Backman said. “I was only going to play him seven innings tonight, but to see him back and stay healthy is good.”
The bullpen was able to douse the fire, starting with Josh Edgin in the fourth inning. He and Chasen Bradford each pitched two scoreless innings.
Paul Sewald also went two innings, striking out two. He allowed two home runs in the ninth inning, including one to Buss, his second of the game.
Who: Albuquerque Isotopes at 51s
When: 7:05 p.m. Thursday
Where: Cashman Field
Starters: Shane Carle (3-7, 5.68 ERA), Isotopes, vs. Duane Below (4-7, 4.53 ERA)
Friday: Albuquerque at Las Vegas, doubleheader, 5:05 p.m.
Saturday: Albuquerque at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Sunday: Off (All-Star break)
Monday: Off (All-Star break)
Tuesday: Off (All-Star break)
• Right-handed pitcher Seth Lugo was recalled to the New York Mets on Wednesday when Matt Harvey was placed on the disabled list.
• The 51s placed left-handed pitcher Zack Thornton on the seven-day disabled list retroactive to Tuesday. His roster spot will go to infielder Matt Reynolds, who was optioned Tuesday.
Justin Emerson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @J15Emerson