About the only thing that could have stopped the Albuquerque Isotopes’ comeback in their final home game Sunday night was Mother Nature.
Amid a torrent of rain and flashing lightning, the Isotopes and Round Rock Express saw their game stopped cold after eight innings. After a 56-minute delay, the contest was called due to the lightning, giving the Express a 7-6 victory in front of 13,520 fans, most of whom had long since left Isotopes Park.
“It was a good time these last few nights and pretty much all year long, the fan base has been really good to us,” first baseman Jerry Sands said.
Round Rock (81-55) stormed out to a 7-0 lead only to see Albuquerque (68-68) rally back to within one run by the time the clouds opened up.
Jose Ruiz belted a three-run homer in the second inning and Val Majewski led off the fourth with another blast to right field. Brad Nelson’s two-run double and Majewski’s RBI triple in the fifth capped the Express’ offensive outburst.
Both Nelson’s double and Majewski’s triple fell in after being lost in the lights.
The Isotopes started their comeback in the sixth inning. Ivan De Jesus Jr. drew a leadoff walk and Joe Becker followed with a single. Jay Gibbons’ single to right field scored De Jesus. Russ Mitchell then walked to load the bases.
Pedro Strop came in for Cody Eppley to try and stop the bleeding. Sands then continued his season-long terrorizing of Round Rock pitching, crushing a grand slam to left-center to make it 7-5.
In just eight games against the Express, Sands has hit .543 (19-for-35) with five home runs and 19 RBI.
“I don’t know, I guess I like hitting against them,” Sands said. “That’s a good team over there. I don’t know if I bear down because I know they have a pretty good staff. I don’t look into it that much. I didn’t know I was (19-for-35).”
Sands’ slam brought about one of the loudest roars from the crowd this season.
“That was fun,” manager Lorenzo Bundy said. “That’s the one thing about our fans, they stay in it. Whenever it seems like we’ve got something going, they’re right with us. This atmosphere is great.”
Albuquerque put two on with one out in the eighth, but Mitchell hit into a 4-6-3 double play.
Sands led off the eighth with a single and scored two batters later on Tim Federowicz’s single to left-center.
John Lindsey followed with a single, but Kyle Russell’s hard smash up the middle was swatted down by reliever Merkin Valdez, a former Isotope. Valdez threw out Russell at first base and then induced a groundout from De Jesus to end the inning just as the rain started to fall.
“I guess when you lose two flyballs in an inning in the twilight and then Kyle Russell’s ball off Merkin Valdez doesn’t get through, it’s not meant to be,” Bundy said.
John Ely (7-7) had a rough final start in Albuquerque, allowing seven runs on eight hits and one walk in five innings.
“He was up and there were a couple situations he was trying to go up,” Bundy said. “For me he hadn’t established himself down enough. Usually when you go up you want to change the eye level of the hitter. You want it down at the knees.
“But he was pretty much belt high most of the night and then when he tried to go up, it didn’t go up enough. A couple long balls got him in trouble.”
The Isotopes will hit the road for their final eight games of the season, with four at Memphis starting Monday followed by four in Round Rock.