The season's longest road trip ended on a high note, as the Albuquerque Isotopes (9-10) edged the New Orleans Zephyrs (7-12) 4-2 Tuesday afternoon at Zephyr Field. The triumph gives the 'Topes their third straight win, their longest streak of the young season, and gives Albuquerque a record of 6-5 on an 11-game road trip that started in Omaha almost two weeks ago, continued in Iowa, and wrapped up in the Crescent City.
Once again, starting pitching ruled the day for the Isotopes, as Shawn Estes was brilliant, allowing just three hits in six dominant shutout innings while walking one and striking out one. At one point from the third to the fifth, Estes (1-1) retired eight straight batters, earning his first victory of the season and lowering his ERA on the year to 2.37.
Albuquerque started building a lead for its starter in the second, when Dee Brown led off the frame with a double before Hector Luna drew a walk to give the Isotopes two on with nobody out. Chin-Lung Hu then drove a single right up the middle off of Zephyrs starter Dallas Trahern's glove to plate Brown and give the 'Topes a 1-0 lead. New Orleans avoided a big inning however, when, after A.J. Ellis drew a walk to load the bases still with nobody out, Trahern coaxed a strikeout and an inning-ending double-play to keep the score 1-0.
Undaunted, the Isotopes struck again in the sixth, plating a pair of runs. With Valentino Pascucci on second and Luna on first, Hu slapped a well-struck grounder to shortstop that was misplayed Andy Gonzales, allowing Pascucci to chug home and double the Albuquerque advantage to 2-0. Ellis then followed with a single plating Luna to extend the lead to 3-0 'Topes.
Pascucci helped Albuquerque add a crucial insurance run in the seventh, hammering a two-out double to center that chased home Luis Maza and put the 'Topes ahead 4-0.
The Zephyrs came back with two runs in the eighth to trim the lead to a too-close-for-comfort 4-2 margin, but 'Topes closer Tanyon Sturtze (4), slammed the door, firing a scoreless ninth to earn his fourth save of the season and preserve Albuquerque's third straight win, a triumph that gives the 'Topes a three-game series sweep in their rain-shortened set in New Orleans. It also continues an unusual trend of sweeps between Dodgers and Marlins Triple-A affiliates. Dating back to the Isotopes' inaugural year of 2003, there have been four series sweeps between top affiliates of Los Angeles and Florida, with Albuquerque coming out on top in all of them; three as a Marlins affiliate against the Dodgers, and one as a Dodgers affiliate against the Marlins.
After a well-deserved day off tomorrow, the Isotopes will return to Isotopes Park this Thursday, April 30 for a four-game homestand against division-rival Round Rock, Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros. Right-hander Jeff Weaver (1-2, 3.55) makes the start for the 'Topes against former Isotopes Jeff Fulchino (0-0, 0.00) at 6:35 PM.
The homestand may be short, but it's packed with great promotions with Isotopes Hat Night on Friday, May 1 and the first fireworks extravaganza of the season taking place on Saturday, May 2. 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.