Clocking in at an epic four hours and two minutes, the longest nine-inning game in franchise history, the Albuquerque Isotopes (74-56) surrendered a season-high-tying five homers in a 20-10 loss to the New Orleans Zephyrs (71-59) on Monday night at Isotopes Park. The defeat snaps a 'Topes five-game winning streak against the Z's and cuts Albuquerque's lead to three games in the PCL's American Southern Division.
The Zephyrs came out swinging, crushing their first dinger of the game on a solo shot from Brett Hayes for an early 1-0 lead. The Isotopes quickly answered in the bottom half of the frame, claiming a 2-1 lead as Tony Gwynn Jr. and Ivan De Jesus Jr. drew back-to-back walks and both scored on a double from Jerry Sands, who went 5-for-6 to extend his franchise-record hit streak to 21 games.
New Orleans reclaimed the lead in the second beginning with a leadoff solo homer from Luke Montz that knotted the contest 2-2, and following a walk to pitcher Elih Villanueva, Kevin Mattison crushed a two-run slam that widened the Z's advantage 4-2.
The visiting team continued pouring it on in the third when Mike Cervenak and Scott Cousins knocked consecutive singles to put two runners on for Montz, who promptly blasted his second home run of the night to make it 7-2, New Orleans.
Albuquerque wouldn't say die, however, clawing its way back in the fourth as reliever Cole St. Clair and Gwynn started a rally by slapping consecutive singles. De Jesus Jr. then ripped a base hit up the middle that was misplayed by center fielder Mattison, allowing St. Clair to score and bring the 'Topes within 7-3, while Gwynn advanced to third and De Jesus moved to second. Two batters later, Sands cut the deficit to 7-5 with a bloop a single to right-center that scored both runners.
In the sixth, the Z's got on the board again when Cervenak drew a one-out walk and reliever Michael Antonini intentionally walked Montz, but the strategy backfired as Chase Lambin unleashed a three-run bomb that put New Orleans up 10-5. Much like before, the Isotopes battled back in the bottom of the frame with singles from Josh Fields, Sands and Trent Oeltjen, the latter of which scored Fields to narrow the Zephyrs' lead 10-6. Tim Federowicz then lifted a sac-fly to right, bringing in Sands and making the score 10-7.
New Orleans would put the game out of reach with a nine-run seventh which featured four walks, two of which came with the bases loaded, inflating the lead to 19-7.
The Isotopes attempted to make it respectable with three runs in the eighth on a pinch-hit sac-fly from Alex Castellanos and a two-run single from Ozzie Martinez, bringing Albuquerque within 19-10.
The 'Topes were then forced to rely on a position player to close out the ninth, handing the ball to Fields for his first professional pitching appearance in which he allowed one run while striking out Cousins. In the bottom half of the frame, New Orleans kept the Isotopes scoreless, coasting to a 20-10 win.
Albuquerque and New Orleans conclude their crucial four-game set tomorrow night at 6:35 PM. 'Topes right-hander Stephen Fife (9-6, 4.74) will face off against New Orleans right-hander Tom Koehler (12-9, 3.74) in the final matchup between the two clubs this season.
The quick homestand wraps up with a rally hat giveaway tomorrow night. Following the conclusion of the series, the Isotopes hit the road for sets against the Memphis Redbirds and Oklahoma City RedHawks. The team will then return home Friday, August 31 for the final homestand of the regular season against the Omaha Storm Chasers with promotions including three fireworks shows and a Bobble-Logo giveaway! 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.