The Blue Wahoos were two outs away from a shutout sweep in Monday's doubleheader against the Chattanooga Lookouts
That's when disaster struck.
The Lookouts loaded the bases before Ibandel Isabel launched a game-tying grand slam in their final at-bat. Then they walked off in extras with a run-scoring single two innings later for a stunning 5-4 victory and a split of the twinbill at AT&T Park in Chattanooga.
The Blue Wahoos (24-14) won the first game of the twinbill 1-0 behind a three-hit shutout from pitchers Jorge Alcala (5-1) and Ryan Mason (S, 7). They were leading 4-0 in the seventh inning - both games Monday were scheduled for seven innings - of the nightcap when the Lookouts pulled off the improbable rally on Isabel's grand slam.
Jose Siri, who played in Pensacola last year when the Blue Wahoos were the Cincinnati Reds affiliate, followed in the ninth inning for a game-winning, RBI single, which scored Isabel.
It enabled Chattanooga (21-15) to take a 2-1 lead in the series matching two franchises who flipped affiliations and former Blue Wahoos manager Pat Kelly going against the franchise he guided to a trio of post-season appearances from 2015-17.
Pitching dominated the first game Monday. Alcala worked 5.2 innings, allowing just two hits, two walks and recording four strikeouts.
The game's only run was scored fourth inning. Taylor Grzelakowski led off with a walk. He moved to third on Ernie De La Trinidad's double. Tanner English followed with a one-out sacrifice fly to score Grzelakowski.
The run held up as decisive when Blue Wahoos' reliever Ryan Mason earned his seventh save. He entered in the bottom of the sixth, after Alfredo Rodriguez reached on a two-out single. But catcher Caleb Hamilton then threw out Rodriguez on a steal attempt to end the inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, Mason gave up a two-out double by Siri. But he ended the game by striking out Chattanooga's Tyler Stephenson, the Reds' No. 1 draft pick in 2015, for the final out.
Blue Wahoos third baseman Luis Arraez, the top hitter in the Southern League, went 3-for-4 in the first game. Grzelakowski, De La Trindidad, along with Travis Blankenship, Alex Kirilloff and Mitchel Kranson, all had hits.
In what started as a repeat of the first game, the Blue Wahoos controlled on the mound. Adam Bray made his first start of the season on the mound and worked 3.1 scoreless innings, allowing just four hits, no walks, three strikeouts. Sam Clay followed with 1.2 scoreless innings as the Blue Wahoos staked a 4-0 lead.
Joe Cronin and Jaylin Davis had consecutive RBI singles with two out in the fifth inning to give the Blue Wahoos a 2-0 lead. The Blue Wahoos then loaded the bases with one out in the seventh. Arraez hit a two-out, two RBI single to provide a four-run cushion.
But the Blue Wahoos, late-inning bullpen, which has been a backbone of the team's strong start, experienced their worst outing. With one out in the bottom of the seventh, reliever Alex Phillips issued a pair of walks and a single by Taylor Trammel to load the bases. Tyler Jay was summoned to replaced Phillips.
On a one-strike pitch, Isabel blasted a grand slam over the right-center fence to tie the game. Jay then avoided worse damage at the time, following a single by Brantley Bell and double by Gavin LaValley, who played in Pensacola last year. He forced extra innings by retiring Chris Okley.
With the MILB rules placing a runner on second to start an extra inning, both teams failed to score in the eighth. The Blue Wahoos were retired in order in both the eighth and ninth inning, stranding a go-ahead run on second.
Siri was the Lookouts leadoff batter in the ninth with Isabell on second. He lined a 2-2 pitch into center field for the game-winner.
The series will continue with a single game on Tuesday at 6:15 p.m., followed by a morning game Wednesday at 10:15 a.m. in a Business Person Special matinee.
The Blue Wahoos will then travel back to Pensacola following Wednesday's game to begin a five-game homestand against the Mobile BayBears on Thursday at 6:35 p.m. That will be a Thirsty Thursday game with happy hour drink prices and specials.
In addition, Thursday night is also "Bark In The Park Night." Fans are encouraged to bring their dog for a night of canine-themed promotions. All dogs will be admitted for $1 with the proceeds to benefit the local chapter of the Bow Wow Buddies Foundation, a national organization formed to help injured and sick dogs.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.