ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Tacoma Rainiers’ high hopes for a winning series in Albuquerque faded in the late innings Sunday, when the Isotopes won the series final, 12-5.
Albuquerque broke open a close game by scoring six runs in the bottom of the seventh inning, salvaging a split of the four-game series.
Tacoma (64-58) kept it close throughout the early innings, eventually taking a 4-3 lead in the top of the sixth inning when Abraham Almonte and Franklin Gutierrez hit back-to-back two-out RBI singles off Isotopes reliever Kelvin De La Cruz.
Almonte was 3-for-4 with a walk, raising his average to .307. Gutierrez was 2-for-4 with three RBI in the first game of his latest rehabilitation assignment.
The Rainiers’ slim lead quickly disappeared on a controversial play in the bottom of the sixth inning.
With two on and one out, Albuquerque catcher John Baker – who had homered earlier – faced Tacoma starter Blake Beavan.
Baker hit a deep drive to left-center field, and the ball landed on top of the outfield fence, lodging between two pieces of padding.
The umpires – apparently not seeing that the ball was stuck on top of the fence – immediately indicated it was a home run, giving Albuquerque a 6-4 lead.
When Almonte plucked the ball out of the fence and threw it back into the infield, a long argument ensued.
“We learned a lesson,” Tacoma manager John Stearns said. “Instead of reaching up and grabbing the ball, he needs to throw his hands up in the air and say it’s an unplayable ball and wave to the umpires. Then they come out, see that it is stuck in the wall, and give the guy a ground-rule double.”
The umpires never saw that the ball was stuck in the wall. Television replay could have helped the Rainiers’ argument, because in-house replays showed the call should have been a ground-rule double. However, there is no TV replay in Triple-A.
It was a moot point, anyway. The Isotopes scored six runs in the bottom of the seventh, breaking open the game. A three-run double down the right-field line by Chili Buss capped the rally.
“Going into the bottom of the sixth, we had a 4-3 lead and I felt good about things,” Stearns said. “Then, boom, everything fell apart. We got beat 9-1 down the stretch.”
Baker had a huge game for the Isotopes. Entering play with two homers and a .182 batting average in 110 at-bats, he went 4-for-4 with two homers and five RBI.
Tacoma outfielder Stefen Romero missed his third game in a row because of back spasms. … Carlos Triunfel went 2-for-3, extending his hitting streak to seven games. … The Rainiers are 8-16 all-time at Isotopes Park, which opened in 2003.
The road trip moves on to Round Rock, Texas (a suburb of Austin) for a four-game series starting at 5:05 p.m. (PDT) Monday. Tacoma will start James Paxton (7-9, 4.42 ERA) against Josh Lindblom (8-2, 2.39)of the Express.Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.