The Albuquerque Isotopes (79-64) plated a run in the bottom of the eighth and held on in the ninth to claim a 6-5 playoff-clinching win over the Omaha Storm Chasers (83-60) at Isotopes Park, in front of 14,194 fans, the largest Sunday crowd in franchise history. The victory gives the 'Topes their third playoff berth in the franchise's 10-year history, joining the division-winning squads from 2003 and 2009.
Trailing 5-4 in the seventh, the 'Topes knotted the contest when Scott Van Slyke lined a single to left and scored on a two-out double off the center field wall from Trent Oeltjen, tying the game 5-5.
Following a scoreless top of the eighth, Dee Gordon laid a perfect bunt down the third base line and easily beat out the throw, putting a runner on with one out. Elian Herrera then slapped a single to right, moving the runner to third, and Josh Fields immediately plated the speedy Gordon with a sac-fly in foul territory to right, giving Albuquerque a 6-5 edge.
Omaha seemed privy to halting the 'Topes' playoff hopes in the ninth when Irving Falu led off the frame with a double to right and advanced to third on a groundout from Mitch Maier. With only one out and the tying run just 90 feet away, Isotopes closer Josh Wall (28) fanned "'Topes-Killer" Max Ramirez and coaxed a flyout from Wil Myers to preserve the lead and pick up his league-best 28th save, while sending Albuquerque to a 6-5 playoff-clinching victory.
The game originally favored the 'Topes in the early going as the home team scored a run in each of the first four innings. Gordon got the offense off to a quick start in the first when he reached on an infield single and promptly stole second base. Herrera then moved the runner to third with a sac-bunt and Jerry Sands followed with an RBI single to left that gave the Isotopes a 1-0 advantage.
Albuquerque added a tally in the second on a solo shot from Josh Bard, scored again in the third on an RBI double from Van Slyke and added another run in the fourth when Bard scored on a misplayed ball at third, putting the 'Topes up 4-0 after four innings.
Isotopes starter Cole St. Clair delivered a clutch spot-start, tossing 4.0 scoreless innings in which he walked four and struck out one. The southpaw surrendered just two hits on the evening, and allowed only one runner to advance past second.
Following St. Clair's departure, the Storm Chasers quickly erased the 4-0 deficit with a five-run sixth that included a solo home run from Ramirez and a two-run shot from Adam Moore. However, Omaha's lead would last for just an inning before Albuquerque climbed its way back into the driver's seat, largely thanks to a shutdown performance from 'Topes reliever Erick Threets (6-4), who authored 2.2 scoreless frames, his longest outing of the season for Albuquerque.
The Isotopes and Storm Chasers conclude their four-game set tomorrow afternoon at 1:35 PM. Albuquerque right-hander Lorenzo Barcelo (0-0, No ERA) will make his 'Topes debut against Omaha righty Nate Adcock (8-6, 5.46).
Following the game's conclusion, Albuquerque will enjoy a well deserved day off before beginning the PCL playoffs with a two-game set in Omaha. The Isotopes will return home Friday, September 7 for game three of the series with first pitch slated for 7:05 PM!
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 on-line at www.abqisotopes.com or www.ticketmaster.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.