Heading into the bottom of the ninth inning on Friday, it looked like Triple-A El Paso was heading for its sixth straight loss. In what seemed like merely an instant, however, everything changed, and history was made in the process.
The Chihuahuas strung together eight hits and 10 runs in the ninth to stun Round Rock, 15-12, at Southwest University Park. Esteban Quiroz walked it off with a one-out grand slam, El Paso's Pacific Coast League record-breaking 232nd homer of the season.
Video: Quiroz hammers a pinch-hit, walk-off grand slam
The Chihuahuas have certainly had their share of offensive fireworks and memorable games this season, but in the eyes of manager Edwin Rodriguez, this one tops the list.
"We've been having a very good season ... but when you win that way, how we did tonight, that's even better," he said.
Rodrigo Orozco opened the ninth with a single, but Matthew Batten followed with a strikeout. That was merely a speed bump as El Paso responded with four straight hits -- three singles and a double -- that produced three runs and trimmed the deficit to 12-8. Webster Rivas walked to load the bases and, according to Rodriguez, bring the stadium to life.
"When we loaded the bases ... that's when everybody went crazy," he said.
Boog Powell quickly followed up on that excitement with a base hit to center field that plated Seth Mejias-Brean and Jason Vosler and brought the Chihuahuas within two runs. Round Rock pulled Felipe Paulino and brought in Brendan McCurry, who yielded a single to Travis Jankowski on his second pitch that drove in Rivas. That brought it back to Orozco, who was hit by a pitch to reload the bases.
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Rodriguez turned to Quiroz, who was mired in a 1-for-14 funk and had the day off, to bat for second baseman-turned pitcher Matthew Batten. That proved to be a good decision as the left-handed slugger saw just one pitch from McCurry before sending a breaking ball over the fence in right to complete the epic comeback.
"He's been having a great season," Rodriguez said of Quiroz. "So he was ready."
Quiroz's big fly meant more than just a Chihuahuas win. It eclipsed the single-season PCL homer mark established 20 years ago by the Omaha Golden Spikes.
"Every time that you set a record, it's good for the organization, it's good for the players and I think it's good for baseball," Rodriguez said. "We've been very consistent offensively pretty much the whole year. So, yeah, I think it's good for the players to see that."
Vosler went 2-for-4 with four RBIs, while Powell drove in two runs with a pair of hits. Jankowski and Orozco also contributed two hits apiece. Batten picked up his first career win in his fifth emergency appearance on the mound.
The victory snapped the skid for the Chihauhuas, who are one game behind first-place Las Vegas in the Pacific Southern Division, so Rodriguez was happy to see the win not only for standings purposes but also in hopes it can provide positive energy and momentum.
"It was good because we were really having a tough week so far," he said. "It was good to have that reaction from the players. Definitely from the fans but more important for the players."
It wasn't just a tough week on the diamond. The entire El Paso community has been recovering since the mass shooting that took place at a local Walmart last Saturday in which 22 were killed and 24 were injured.
The Chihuahuas honored the victims Wednesday, their first game in El Paso since the shooting, wearing black uniforms that read simply "El Paso" rather than the typical home "Chihuahuas." They also held a 22-second moment of silence to honor the 22 victims.
It didn't stop there. Ahead of Friday's game, Rodriguez and a handful of players went to the University Medical Center of El Paso to visit the injured and the families of those who lost their lives. The manager said the team was there for more than an hour.
Back at the stadium, the group filled the rest of the team in on the details of the visit. It all took place well before the start of the game, but the players and staff carried the experience with them well beyond the first pitch.
"The players that stayed here, they were asking us about what happened, how that was, how the family and relatives were doing and all that," Rodriguez said. "So I think we had that in mind when we were taking the field."
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That alone would've led to a powerful night, but to couple such an experience with a sensational ending made it feel that much more moving.
"It was very emotional for us before the game," he said. "Definitely, it was very emotional for us today."
And while nothing the team does in the batter's box or on the basepaths can begin to deal with the toll that's been exacted on El Paso, Rodriguez recognizes that the Chihuahuas can play some role in helping the city heal -- even if it's limited to within the ballpark.
"The community is hurt ... that's the least we can do for them," he said. "We can give them good times in the stadium."