After more than a two-hour rain delay, the Albuquerque Isotopes (0-1) snapped five scoreless innings, but the Memphis Redbirds had already built all the lead they would need handing the 'Topes a 6-2 loss and taking a 1-0 series lead in game one of the PCL American Conference Finals.
The Isotopes were baffled by Redbird starter Jaime Garcia (1-0), who held Albuquerque to just one hit through 6.1 frames, an infield knock by Jamie Hoffmann in the bottom of the fifth. Until that point, the Redbird starter retired 13 straight, all via the groundball or strikeout. The left-hander, making his fifth Triple-A start, struck out six his first time through the potent Isotopes lineup, including five of the first six batters he faced.
Memphis tallied two runs in the first two frames off 'Topes starter Eric Stults. Jon Jay, Tyler Greene and Jarrett Hoffpauir rattled off three straight singles to start the game, with Hoffpauir's scoring Jay and a groundout from Brian Barden sending home Greene for an early 2-0 Redbird edge.
Stults (0-1) surrendered three more hits in the second as the Redbirds doubled their lead. A single from Shane Robinson followed by a double from Garcia gave Memphis runners on second and third. A groundout to the right side pushed across Robinson while Greene used his second single in as many innings to score Garcia for a 4-0 advantage.
Stults settled in after the four runs, sitting down the meat of the Redbirds order in the third and was spared a run when Xavier Paul from centerfield threw out Matt Pagnozzi at the plate trying to score. Memphis added another run in the fifth and looked poised for more in the sixth until some defensive wizardry by Chin-Lung Hu got the 'Topes out of a jam. With Brian Barden on second and Mark Shorey on first, Pagnozzi sent a grounder to short, allowing Hu to tag Barden, who was moving on contact off second, for the first out before stepping on the bag to force out Shorey and completing the third triple play in Isotopes history with the turn to Hector Luna at first.
Even the triple play couldn't ignite Albuquerque, as Garcia was relentless, plowing through the 'Topes order until the rains chased him in the bottom of the sixth with one out. The left-hander allowed just one hit and an unearned run while striking out six.
When play resumed two hours and 21 minutes later, Albuquerque finally dented the scoreboard with a Tony Abreu run-scoring triple. Luna followed two batters latter with an RBI single to trim the deficit to 5-2.
But Memphis was quick to answer as Hoffpauir racked up his third RBI with a solo shot in the top of the eighth and the Redbirds snatched a run back for a 6-2 lead.
The Isotopes' two hits in the sixth combined with Hoffmann's infield single would be all Albuquerque collected as four Redbird relievers maintained Garcia's performance and preserved the playoff-opening win.
Albuquerque will look to even the series at a game apiece behind right-hander Giancarlo Alvarado (13-10, 3.49), who will battle Memphis right-hander P.J. Walters (8-10, 4.54) at 7:05 PM MT from Isotopes Park.
The 'Topes will continue their playoff run tomorrow with game two of the American Conference Finals against the Memphis Redbirds, Triple-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.
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 www.albuquerquebaseball.com or www.ticketmaster.com. For more information or for a complete list of 2009 promotions visit www.albuquerquebaseball.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.