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'Topes get bite back

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque wins 6-5 after losing 5-1 lead in 9th inning

Bark in the Park nearly turned into one mangy dog for the Albuquerque Isotopes.

Leading Reno 5-1 with two outs and the bases empty in the top of the ninth, the ’Topes seemed comfortably on their way to snapping a three-game losing streak at Isotopes Park.

The performance meshed well with Sunday’s Bark in the Park promotion, which allowed dog owners to bring their favorite hounds to the game for a pregame run on the outfield grass. An announced pack of 101 dogs took advantage.

But the ’Topes nearly let a much-needed win get off the leash.

Rusty Ryal of the Isotopes slides home behind Reno catcher Ed Easley in the second inning of Sunday’s game. Albuquerque won 6-5, ending a three-game losing streak.

Rusty Ryal of the Isotopes slides home behind Reno catcher Ed Easley in the second inning of Sunday’s game. Albuquerque won 6-5, ending a three-game losing streak. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis-Journal)

Reno rallied for four, two-out runs in the ninth, causing fans to howl and Isotopes manager Lorenzo Bundy to scratch his head.

“I was just thinking, ‘How bad are we going right now?’ ” Bundy said. “What else can happen?”

At the last moment, however, the Isotopes’ luck finally turned. Alex Castellanos rolled a two-out single to deep short in the bottom of the ninth, scoring Matt Wallach and giving the home team a 6-5 victory.

The hit allowed fans and their dogs to go home happy, while ending an overall frustrating series for the ’Topes.

“Right now it’s a relief,” Castellanos said. “I don’t think you’d see us running around in (the clubhouse) with music playing if we’d lost. We were doing everything we could today not to get swept.”

Even the victory was a bit frustrating, Bundy said, primarily because Albuquerque nearly wasted an excellent pitching performance.

Starter Angel Castro shut the Aces down for seven innings, allowing just three singles and striking out seven. After Reno leadoff hitter Tony Campana singled and scored on a sacrifice fly in the first inning, Castro allowed just one Aces hitter to reach second base.

“Castro was dominant,” Bundy said. “Reno’s been swinging it well, and they hit maybe two hard-hit balls off Castro all day. He deserved a ‘W.’ ”

The ’Topes tied the score on Justin Sellers’ sacrifice fly in the second inning, then took a 3-1 lead on his bases-loaded double in the sixth. Elian Herrera bashed a two-run homer to right-center in the seventh, and it seemed Albuquerque would cruise to a win.

Isotopes starter Angel Castro allowed an unearned run in seven innings of work Sunday. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis-Journal)

Isotopes starter Angel Castro allowed an unearned run in seven innings of work Sunday. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis-Journal)

But reliever Chris Withrow ran into all sorts of trouble in the ninth. The right-hander, who had allowed just one earned run all season, got the first two outs but then allowed three straight singles.

Withrow walked Ed Easley to load the bases with the ’Topes leading 5-2.

“I don’t know if he lost focus or what happened,” Bundy said, “but Withrow hit 99 (mph) with his fastball today, and I think he walked (Easley) on four breaking balls.”

Alfredo Marte followed with a two-run single, and Easley scored the tying run on a Withrow wild pitch.

“Pretty frustrating,” Bundy said, “because we’d played so well up to that point.”

Things got more frustrating in the bottom of the ninth. Wallach and Matt Angle started the at-bat by drawing walks, and Tony Gwynn Jr. bounced into a double play. But after Herrera walked, Castellanos bounced his game-winning infield hit between short and third.

The relieved Isotopes raced from the dugout to mob Castellanos.

“I didn’t hit it hard,” he said, “but at that point I’ll take a broken-bat hit or whatever it takes. Hopefully, that will be the one that turns it around for us.”

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