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'Topes Sky High After Win

Team Scrambles After Flight Switch

Getaway day took on added meaning for the Albuquerque Isotopes on Tuesday afternoon.

While the ‘Topes were in the process of defeating Nashville 7-3 in the finale of an eight-game homestand, their travel plans changed. Instead of leaving for Memphis this morning, the team high-tailed it to the airport for a 6 p.m. flight Tuesday.

Postgame scrambling was the order of things.

“Crazy,” Isotopes manager Lorenzo Bundy said as he balanced a postgame interview with a quick change of clothes. “But if we can get through this and make it to Memphis, it’ll be a big advantage sleeping at the hotel instead of traveling (today).”

Fortunately, the Isotopes’ bullpen did its part to expedite things. After starter Stephen Fife (6-4) labored through five innings, relievers Cole St. Clair, Blake Johnson and Scott Rice worked four scoreless innings to clinch the win.

It was a far cry from Monday, when Nashville torched Albuquerque’s bullpen for five ninth-inning runs in an 11-9 Isotopes win.

“Much better,” Bundy said. “It was important with the way Fife struggled with his command. Those guys in the bullpen got the job done today.”

Good relief pitching combined with a balanced hitting attack allowed the Isotopes to build their lead over Oklahoma City to 1 1/2 games atop the Pacific Coast League’s American South division. Albuquerque is a season-best 13 games over .500 (46-33) as it starts a seven-game trip.

“We’re doing a lot of things well right now,” outfielder Matt Angle said. “We’ve got a lot of guys hitting; the pitching’s been solid. It’s really important for us to bear down and keep it going to the All-Star break.”

Angle has played a key role in the team’s recent surge, collecting multiple hits in five straight games. He’s raised his batting average from .251 to .279 in that span. Angle was 2-for-5 with a pair of RBIs on Tuesday.

Outfielder Trent Oeltjen also has picked up his offensive pace recently, allowing Bundy to alternate the two speedsters atop his batting order.

“They’ve both been really good,” Bundy said, “and that makes a big difference for us.”

Angle and Oeltjen both chipped in during the decisive middle innings Tuesday. Angle’s two-out RBI single gave the Isotopes a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth. After the Sounds tied things with two runs in the fifth, Oeltjen’s two-out RBI single capped a three-run rally in the bottom of the fifth.

“We have so many guys hitting over .300 in the middle of our order,” Angle said, “if we can just set the table and give them opportunities, it’s huge.”

The Isotopes did an effective job of scratching out runs Tuesday, as 10 of their 11 hits were singles, including four infield hits. Nashville outhit the home team 12-11 and had four doubles but could not execute with runners on base.

The Sounds squandered a big opportunity in the sixth when Eric Farris led off with a double and moved to third on Corey Patterson’s single. St. Clair then struck out Caleb Gindl and Jeff Bianchi, and then retired Logan Schafer on a fly ball. Isotopes relievers retired 12 of the final 13 Nashville batters.

Now 28-15 at home, the ‘Topes will play series in Memphis and Omaha before returning to Isotopes Park.
‘Topes Sky High After WinTeam Scrambles After Flight Switch

ISOTOPES
— This article appeared on page D2 of the Albuquerque Journal

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