‘Topes take it in the ninth

J.D. Closser’s sac-fly earns a 7-6 win for Albuquerque

After dropping a narrow game on Easter Sunday, the Isotopes (10-8) came out on top of another tight one as J.D. Closser‘s bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth clinched a 7-6 victory over the New Orleans Zephyrs (9-10).

After reliever Merkin Valdez made the Z’s go 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth, Corey Smith — who had given the ‘Topes a short-lived 6-5 lead with a solo home run in the seventh — started the bottom half of the frame with a single to center field. Trent Oeltjen followed up with another single to center. Pinch-hitter Damaso Espino then came up to bat, and after Oeltjen was able to make it to second base on defensive indifference from the Z’s, New Orleans pitcher Steve Cishek tagged Espino in the back to load the bases.

That brought up Closser, who hit a big fly ball to the warning track in center field — giving Smith plenty of time to come home from third base and score the winning run.

Albuquerque opened the game with a pair of runs in the first inning. After Dee Gordon led off with a single and was subsequently thrown out on a steal attempt at second base, Trayvon Robinson and Jay Gibbons provided back-to-back base hits. Smith then hit one to center field to bring home Robinson. Oeltjen followed with another base hit to load the bases and bring up Russ Mitchell, who popped a sac-fly to get Gibbons home for a 2-0 Isotopes lead.

The Z’s tallied a run in the top of the second to cut the lead to 2-1, but the Isotopes put up another pair of runs in their half of the inning. Gibbons smacked a double through the hole at second base to bring in both starting pitcher John Ely and Gordon for a 4-1 lead.

However, in the fifth inning, New Orleans started to get to Ely, who had performed well up to that point. RBI singles from Ruben Gotay and Joe Thurston brought the Z’s within 4-3 before Ely induced a ground out with the bases loaded to keep Albuquerque’s edge.

The Isotopes pushed the lead to 5-3 in their half of the fifth with a solo shot from Mitchell, but two innings later, the Z’s finally managed to tie the game. Ely gave way for Ramon Troncoso in the seventh, but he was unable to hold on to the lead as New Orleans tagged him for a pair of runs thanks to an RBI double from Thurston and a two-out RBI single from Chris Aguila, a former Isotope. Troncoso then managed to force a fly out to preserve the tie.

Smith’s second home run for the Isotopes gave them the lead, 6-5, in the seventh, but the top of the eighth saw the Z’s tie the game right back. New Isotopes reliever Merkin Valdez shook it off and induced a double play ball to get out of trouble, but Albuquerque was held scoreless in their half of the eighth by Cishek.

Valdez wound up with the victory for the Isotopes, going 1 2/3 innings and striking out two batters. Cishek took the loss for New Orleans, going 1 1/3 innings and allowing one run (earned) on four hits.

For a more detailed recap of tonight’s contest, check out AlbuquerqueBaseball.com later tonight.

— Chris Estrada

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