Starter John Ely set new franchise marks for both wins in a season and home victories as the Albuquerque Isotopes (73-55) triumphed 3-1 over the New Orleans Zephyrs (70-58) in front of a throng of 13,160 fans, the third largest crowd of the season, Saturday night at Isotopes Park. Jerry Sands also contributed to the historic evening, tying the team record for longest hit streak with knocks in 19 consecutive games, as the 'Topes opened up a three-game advantage in the PCL's American Southern Division.
Ely (14-7) pitched a gem, navigating 8.0 innings in which he allowed only one run on six hits to pick up his 14th win of the season, tied for most in the PCL. With the victory, Ely breaks the 'Topes franchise record for wins originally set by Frankie De La Cruz in 2008 and tied by Giancarlo Alvarado in 2009, while also surpassing Alvardo's mark of eight home triumphs set during the 2009 campaign. The right-hander walked two batters and fanned seven to extend his PCL-best strikeout count to 159, 27 more than his closest competition. Ely tossed a season-high 113 pitches, 68 of which were for strikes, en route to his sixth win in as many starts, while also lowering his circuit-best ERA to 3.13. Albuquerque's ace is now a legitimate pitching Triple Crown contender, ranking among league leaders in ERA (1st- 3.13), strikeouts (1st - 159) and wins (T-1st - 14).
The Isotopes' starter cruised through the first five innings before he was touched for his only run of the night in the sixth. With one out, Brett Hayes poked a base hit to center field, advanced to third on a single from Mike Cervenak and scored on an RBI base knock from Luke Montz, giving the Z's a 1-0 lead.
Albuquerque quickly responded in the bottom half of the frame as Alex Castellanos and Sands collected back-to-back hits in front of a walk to Scott Van Slyke that loaded the bases. Sands' broken-bat single extended his hitting streak to 19 games, tying the franchise record that was set by Eric Reed in 2006, matched by Jamie Hoffmann in 2010 and again equaled by Elian Herrera earlier this season. During his streak, the slugger has batted .444 (36x81) with nine homers, 33 RBI and 18 runs. With the bases juiced, Tim Federowicz ripped a single to left that scored both runners to put the 'Topes up 2-1.
Ozzie Martinez then gave the Isotopes an insurance run in the seventh when he singled to short and moved all the way to third on a wild pitch by New Orleans reliever Gary Glover. As Martinez dashed to third, Zephyrs catcher Hayes attempted to gun down the runner, but his errant throw went sailing into left field, allowing Martinez to cross home and pad the 'Topes' lead 3-1.
After Ely retired the side in the eighth, Albuquerque closer Josh Wall (24) took over in the ninth, coaxing three straight groundouts to pick up his PCL-best 24th save and preserve a 3-1 'Topes victory. Wall has now given up just two runs over his last 10 appearances, a span in which he's worked nine innings and picked up six saves.
The Isotopes and Z's continue their crucial four-game set tomorrow afternoon. Albuquerque southpaw Derrick Loop (10-3, 2.88) will get the ball against New Orleans lefty Brad Hand (10-5, 3.50) for a 1:35 PM start at The Lab.
The 'Topes continue their exciting homestand tomorrow with a Green Chile bobblehead giveaway, followed by the last 50¢ hot dog night on Monday and a rally hat giveaway on Tuesday! Tickets for any Isotopes game may be purchased at the Isotopes Park Box Office, at Ticketmaster outlets, by phone at 1-800-745-3000, or online at www.abqisotopes.com or www.ticketmaster.com.