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River Cats finish off sweep of ‘Topes

The Isotopes’ Elliot Soto celebrates with Drew Butera after Butera hit a two run homer in the third inning of Tuesday’s home game against Sacramento. GREG SORBER/JOURNAL

Some nights, it’s necessary to conduct a treasure hunt for the silver lining.

For the Albuquerque Isotopes, it had to be this: The Sacramento River Cats don’t have any more regular-season games this year at Isotopes Park.

The slumping Isotopes were shoved around by Sacramento the last four days in their own yard, culminating with the River Cats’ 7-2 series-ending victory Tuesday night.

Sacramento outscored Albuquerque 45-21 in completing a four-game sweep, the first time this year the Isotopes have been swept in a series. Adding some salt, Sacramento, in 17 years, had never before swept Albuquerque.

“Those guys are relentless,” said Isotopes third baseman Josh Fuentes. “Sometimes, you run into a team that’s hot.”

In eight games in Albuquerque this season, Sacramento averaged over 10 runs a game, winning six times. The River Cats’ three highest-scoring games this year have all come at the friendly mile-high altitude of Isotopes Park.

“They didn’t miss balls that were thrown out over the plate,” Albuquerque manager Glenallen Hill said.

In the meantime, the Isotopes have dropped eight out of their last nine.

“The bigger focus point is to remind our guys that good things happen when you’re doing the right things,” Hill said. “And there are some things we did not do right.”

It was a horrible sixth inning that doomed the Isotopes on Tuesday night, and it began with a bad break.

To open the at-bat, left-handed batting Henry Ramos fisted a ball toward Fuentes at third base. Fuentes ran in and appeared to snag it before it hit the dirt.

However, the third base umpire initially, and then the entire crew on a consultation, ruled that Fuentes trapped the ball. (The replay showed he caught it.)

“I picked it and threw it,” Fuentes said. “I don’t trust umpires to make the right call, to be honest with you. That was huge.”

Francisco Peña and Ryan Howard followed with singles to left, loading the bases with one out and chasing Isotopes starter Chi Chi Gonzalez (3-4), who pitched better – five earned runs given up in five-plus innings – that his results indicate.

The first pitch Albuquerque reliever Evan Grills delivered was shipped deep into the gap in right-center. Levi Michael’s three-run triple made it 5-2.

“When you go through a patch when you’re giving up a big inning, things seem to fall into place to make that happen. Sometimes, it’s a play like that,” Hill said, referencing the inning-opening ground ball by Ramos.

The River Cats tacked on two more runs before the inning was over.

There was one defensive highlight and one offensive highlight for the Isotopes.

Fuentes, the reigning MVP of the Pacific Coast League, supplied the defensive gem. Leading off the eighth, Michael grounded a ball down the line. Fuentes dove, gloved it, then threw the ball across the diamond from one knee (and falling backward) to nab Michael at first.

Offensively, there was but one bright spot for the Isotopes, who managed just the two runs on 11 hits.

Drew Butera launched a two-run home run to left field for Albuquerque in the third that tied the game 2-2, and for Butera it was his first homer of the season. He was the only Isotopes starter Tuesday who came into the game without a 2019 home run. He last homered in September with the parent Rockies against Philadelphia.

Albuquerque still has eight games in Sacramento this season.

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