ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Count ’em out at your own risk.
The Albuquerque Isotopes staged an almost unbelievable rally Saturday night to extend their season and even their Pacific Coast League playoff series with Omaha.
Trailing 10-3 and looking all but eliminated, the ’Topes put up nine — that’s a season-best nine — runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to pull out a 12-10 victory in front of 2,908 delirious fans.
Tony Gwynn’s three-run homer and two Elian Herrera triples highlighted what has to go down as one of the most memorable games in the franchise’s 10-year history. It was the ’Topes’ first home playoff win in six tries overall.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Isotopes manager Lorenzo Bundy said of his team’s seventh-inning uprising. “I’ve been around a lot of playoff games. This has to be one of the best comebacks ever in an elimination game. The ’Topes live to fight one more day.”
That will be today, when the Isotopes and Storm Chasers square off in Game Five at 1:35 p.m. The winner moves on to the Pacific Coast League Championship Series.
The inning and game was filled with one unlikely feat after another. Consider reliever Lorenzo Barcelo, recently claimed from the Mexican League, who pitched the final three innings to earn his first Isotopes win. The veteran jumped and pumped his fist after recording the final out.
“He was tomorrow’s possible starter,” Bundy said, “until it looked like there wouldn’t be a tomorrow. He did a great job.”
Still, the night’s least likely event had to be Gwynn’s home run — a three-run drive to right that gave Albuquerque an 11-10 lead. It was Gwynn’s first long ball of the season with either Albuquerque or Los Angeles.
“I didn’t think it was going to get out,” said Gwynn, who raced around first base and barely slowed down on his way to the plate. “I think it’s been over a year since I had one at this point. But (Omaha reliever Brandon) Sisk had been killing me with heaters. I wasn’t going to let him beat me with a heater.”
The Isotopes looked ready for time on the golf course through six innings Saturday. Starting pitcher Derrick Loop was rocked for eight runs in just three innings and, after scoring two first-inning runs, ’Topes batters went quietly for the next five frames.
“My famous line for about four innings was, ‘Let’s put up a crooked number,’ ” Bundy said. “I was thinking two, and we kept getting nothing, nothing, nothing.”
But after Jason Blourgeois smacked a solo home run to make the score 10-3 in the top of the seventh, everything suddenly turned.
“We were not hitting good all night,” Herrera said, “but baseball is crazy.”
Herrera tripled to lead off a rally that included a Josh Fields RBI single, Jerry Sands’ two-run double, a run-scoring Scott Van Slyke double, a Josh Bard single, Gwynn’s homer, another Herrera triple and a Fields sacrifice fly.
While the players celebrated on the field afterward, things were fairly calm in the postgame locker room.
“We usually get to celebrate for 24 hours,” Gwynn said. “Not this time. It’s a fast turnaround.”