Mother Nature keeps throwing cold water on the Albuquerque Isotopes, but somehow their playoff hopes have managed to stay afloat.
In spite of a rather crazy run of weather, the ‘Topes came into Friday night’s scheduled opener of a four-game homestand just a half-game behind first-place Salt Lake City in the Pacific Coast League’s Pacific Southern Division.
That game against the Fresno Grizzlies was rained out, meaning the teams will play a doubleheader today beginning at 4:35 p.m.
Friday’s washout meant back-to-back rainouts for the Isotopes, whose series finale against host New Orleans was canceled Thursday night because of soggy conditions. That rainout came after three straight games were delayed by rain against New Orleans. Weather also had an impact on the Isotopes’ previous series in Round Rock.
“We took on-field (batting practice) once in Round Rock,” ‘Topes outfielder Noel Cuevas, “not at all in New Orleans and not (Friday). Our bats have been really cold lately, too. I’m not sure if it’s related, but …”
Nothing really changed when the team returned to Albuquerque. Heavy afternoon rain turned Isotopes Park into a swamp Friday and caused the grounds crew to spend hours getting the field into playing shape.
Then it started raining again.
To an extent, the Isotopes’ play has mirrored the gloomy weather. Albuquerque went 2-5 on its recent trip against a pair of sub-.500 opponents.
Oddly, however, one big inning allowed the ‘Topes to come home feeling good about things. That came Wednesday night, when they trailed New Orleans 2-1 in the ninth inning with two outs and no one on base. At the time, the ‘Topes were 0-30 when trailing after eight innings on the road this season.
Three straight singles, a walk and Cristhian Adames’ three-run triple allowed the Isotopes to steal a 5-2 victory.
“I had an 0-2 count in that inning,” said Cuevas, who singled home the tying run. “A win like that is a great momentum-changer. I think we all feel like we’re about ready to bust out.”
Back-to-back rainouts may have cost Albuquerque a chance to grab at least a share of first place, but there’s still reason for optimism. The ‘Topes carry a mediocre 58-59 record into their series with Fresno, but they host a four-game series with Salt Lake later this month.
They can also draw on last season for inspiration. After trailing El Paso by 17 games in July, the Isotopes finished just two games out.
“We made a strong push last year,” pitcher Matt Flemer said. “We know what it takes and we don’t have so much ground to make up this time. It’s right there for us.”
Flemer even managed to see a silver lining to all the rain the Isotopes have faced.
“Well, we’ve gotten some extra rest,” he said, “which is actually kind of nice. We should all be energized for a last playoff push.”
HAPPY LANDINGS: Wet grounds weren’t the only reason Friday’s game was initially delayed. The afternoon storm also prevented the Fresno Grizzlies’ flight from landing in Albuquerque. Instead the Grizzlies landed in Santa Fe and boarded a bus to Isotopes Park. They arrived just after 6 p.m.