The Albuquerque Isotopes (40-32) mounted a two-out, five-run rally in the ninth, but it wasn't enough as the 'Topes fell 9-7 to the New Orleans Zephyrs (38-34) on Tuesday night at Isotopes Park. The loss, coupled with an Oklahoma City victory, drops the 'Topes to two and a half games in back of the RedHawks in the PCL American Southern Division.
The Z's immediately jumped on the board in the opening frame, loading the bases with three consecutive walks off 'Topes starter Fernando Nieve (3-5). Nick Green followed with an RBI single to center that put New Orleans on the board with a 1-0 lead. With the bases juiced and one out, Chris Aguila, a former Isotope, destroyed the first offering he saw from Nieve for a grand slam home run that extended the lead 5-0. Aguila had a banner night for the Zephyrs, going 3-for-4 with four RBI.
The 'Topes showed signs of life in the third when Trent Oeltjen blasted a solo shot to right that narrowed the deficit 5-1. The red-hot Oeltjen has smashed five homers in his last 22 contests after failing to collect one through his first 35 games. The 'Topes outfielder finished 3-for-4 on the night with three RBI and has recorded a hit in nine of his last 12 games.
Albuquerque scored again in the fifth off back-to-back singles from Brian Cavazos-Galvez and Matt Angle that put runners in scoring position for Oeltjen, who promptly lifted a sac-fly that plated Cavazos-Galvez and brought the 'Topes within 5-2.
Zephyrs starter Alex Sanabia (6-4) continued his stellar season, allowing two runs while fanning six and walking two in 6.0 innings of work, lowering his ERA to 3.16.
The Z's then padded their lead through the final three frames, scoring once in the seventh off a solo home run by Donnie Murphy and adding three more in the ninth to make it 9-2.
Albuquerque looked primed for a comeback as Tim Federowicz and Cavazos-Galvez led off the ninth with back-to-back singles. Two outs later, Oeltjen slapped an RBI single to bring the 'Topes within 9-3. Alex Castellanos and Josh Fields kept the rally alive with consecutive RBI singles that cut the lead to 9-5. With runners on first and second, Jerry Sands roped a two-run double to deep center that made the score 9-7. With the tying run at the plate, the Isotopes were unable to complete the comeback as Luis Cruz popped out to first base to give New Orleans a 9-7 victory.
The Isotopes continue their four-game set against New Orleans tomorrow at 7:05 PM. 'Topes righty Will Savage (9-3, 5.16) will entertain Z's southpaw Brad Hand (4-4, 4.30) in game two from Isotopes Park.
Albuquerque's eight-game homestand rolls on tomorrow against the Zephyrs, with upcoming promotions featuring a rally towel giveaway, camo hat giveaway, fireworks and a live performance by Rally.