Dodger blue was once again a winning color Friday at Isotopes Park.
Oklahoma City, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate, left the host Isotopes feeling especially blue, capping an abbreviated three-game series sweep with a 5-4 triumph.
It was the fourth straight loss for the struggling ‘Topes but this one hurt more than most. Albuquerque saw the potential tying run thrown out at home in the bottom of the ninth inning and left two more runners stranded.
An announced crowd of 7,639 – many of them in costume for Princess and Comic Crusader Night – went home disappointed as the ‘Topes were unable to generate much drama for the first eight innings.
Coming off a 10-0 shutout loss Thursday, Albuquerque managed just a solo home run by Peter Mooney in the third inning and Roberto Ramos’ run-scoring single in the fourth and trailed 5-2 heading to the final frame.
But a dramatic ending seemed to be in the works when Albuquerque rallied for two runs in the ninth. Yonathan Daza tripled home a run and later scored on Pat Valaika’s infield single, trimming the deficit to 5-4 with one out.
That’s when the momentum turned for good.
Sam Hilliard lined a single to right-center and Valaika raced to third base – and didn’t stop. Valaika was easily thrown out at the plate, and Roberto Ramos later struck out with two runners on base to end the game.
Did Valaika run through a “Stop” sign by manager and third base coach Glenallen Hill?
“Yes,” Hill said, “but I could have put the stop sign up sooner. Sometimes guys run with their heads down and that’s what (Valaika) did. The last thing he saw was me waving him from second to third.”
It was one of two base-running blunders by the Isotopes. Daza was easily thrown out trying to stretch a single to center field in the fifth inning.
“It’s a fine line,” Hill said. “We’re an aggressive team and you want guys to play free, but those things can end up costing you games. Runners have scored from first on hits like (Hilliard’s) and the defense has to make two good throws to get him. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. Tonight it didn’t.”
Oklahoma City scored twice to grab a 3-0 lead in the top of the third inning thanks to two walks, one with the bases loaded, a single and a hit batsman. The Dodgers added single runs in the sixth and seventh to build a 5-2 lead.
Each team finished with 12 hits but the Isotopes were 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
UNEXPECTED: Isotopes starting pitcher Chi Chi Gonzalez has been solid on the mound this season but not so much at the plate. Gonzalez, who did not have a professional at-bat prior to this year, came into Friday’s game 0-for-13.
As a result, he did not get much respect from Oklahoma City center fielder Cameron Perkins, who lined up closer to second base than the warning track when Gonzalez came up in the third inning.
The pitcher promptly lined the ball over Perkins’ head and it rolled up the berm for a double.
The Isotopes attempted to save the ball to commemorate Gonzalez’s first hit, but Dodgers pitcher Tony Gonsolin initially tossed the ball into Oklahoma City’s dugout before it was finally tracked down and saved.
Gonzalez followed up his ice-breaker with a single in the fifth but his teammates couldn’t capitalize. He was twice stranded at third base.
UP NEXT: The Isotopes’ home stretch continues when the New Orleans Baby Cakes come to town tonight to open a four-game series.
After that, the Isotopes head to Reno, Nev., for a five-game series with the Aces.