Isabel's homer leads Tortugas to FSL Finals

Slugging Reds prospect sparks comeback in trademark fashion

Ibandel Isabel was traded from the Dodgers to the Reds in an April 17 deal for right-hander Ariel Hernandez. (Brian McLeod/

By Chris Bumbaca / | September 7, 2018 12:48 AM

Ibandel Isabel had a career year with Class A Advanced Daytona, hitting a Florida State League-record 35 home runs. 

None were bigger than the one he hit Thursday, though.

The Reds prospect's two-run jack in the seventh inning got the Tortugas started in a 5-3 comeback win over the Threshers in the finale of the best-of-3 semifinals.

"This team's battled all year," Daytona manager Ricky Gutierrez said. "We don't give up. We were down every game this series and fought back. This team keeps battling and keeps fighting. It never feels like they're out of it."

Gameday box score

Isabel set the circuit homer record during the final week of the regular season, but he went 0-for-9 with six strikeouts and one walk through the first two-plus games of the playoffs. Facing Threshers starter Mauricio Llovera with a runner on first base and nobody out in the seventh, the native of the Dominican Republic smacked a 1-2 offering over the wall in left field to pull the Tortugas within one.

"He's been big for us all year," Gutierrez said. "Even when he's struggling, you've still got to put him in the lineup every day because [with] one swing of the bat he could get you back in a game, like he did tonight. He'd been scuffling the first two games and to that point. But he's a guy that with one swing can turn the game around, and he did it tonight."

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The 23-year-old first baseman batted .257 over 104 games with the Tortugas and his .900 on-base plus slugging percentage led the league. Including the long ball he hit with Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga before being dealt from the Dodgers to the Reds in April, Isabel clubbed 36 in the regular season.

Llovera held Daytona hitless over the first 4 2/3 innings and carried a shutout through the sixth. Ibandel's dinger chased the right-hander, who allowed two runs on three hits and three walks, striking out six.

"It was tough at the beginning," Gutierrez said. "Their guy was lights-out. He was unbelievable. But we were able to battle and keep battling. I give [Tortugas starter Austin Orewiler] a lot of credit. He kept the game close to give us a chance. Isabel came up like he has all year and hit a big two-run home run for us to get us back in it. We were able to get the starter out and just kept grinding at-bats, grinding at-bats, and we were able to pull it out." 

MiLB include

Daytona scored three runs in the eighth, getting a leadoff double from Courtney Hawkins -- who advanced to third base on a single byTyler Stephenson and scored on a wild pitch -- and a go-ahead two-bagger from Bruce Yari. Randy Ventura beat out an infield single to provide an insurance run.

Orewiler allowed three runs on seven hits and a walk while fanning four over 5 2/3 innings. Carlos Diaz (1-1) whiffed one over a perfect frame of relief to earn the win. Ryan Hendrix worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his second postseason save.

No. 12 Phillies prospect Daniel Brito laced a run-scoring double for the Threshers. Clearwater's Grenny Cumana went 3-for-4 with an RBI and Edgar Cabral homered.

Daytona travels to Fort Myers for Game 1 of the best-of-5 Championship Series on Friday.

Chris Bumbaca is a contributor for based in New York. Follow him on Twitter @BOOMbaca. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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