Joshua Fuentes trotted out to left field with a grin on his face after the fifth inning Thursday night at Isotopes Park.
Having just hit a double to add to the single and triple he hit earlier in a game that the Albuquerque Isotopes would go on to win over the Reno Aces 13-5, the 28-year-old who is on the Colorado Rockies’ 40-man roster joked with his pitching teammates in the bullpen just beyond the left-field wall.
“I was telling the guys, ‘I’m a homer away,'” said Fuentes, one of the best defensive third basemen to ever come through Albuquerque – be it Isotopes or Dukes – who played in the outfield Thursday.
“So I was definitely talking about it and thinking about it, but just having fun about it.”
But the stars aligned, and his teammates kept getting on base.
In the bottom half of the sixth inning, in just his fourth at bat of the game, Fuentes stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded against Reno reliever Chester Pimentel.
“I was just thinking up the middle – line drive up the middle,” Fuentes said. “He threw me something too fat to not take a great swing at. So I was just thinking, let it rip.”
It ripped, landing in the Reno bullpen for a grand slam, and the first cycle Fuentes has ever hit for at any level and the ninth in franchise history, putting the Isotopes up at that point 11-5.
It was home run No. 9 for Fuentes in 40 games since returning to the Isotopes this season (he was the club’s MVP in 2018 and played in Albuquerque most of 2019 before being called up to the majors).
He’s been on a recent tear at the plate, saying he felt as comfortable as he’s felt hitting as any time since his previous stint in Albuquerque.
“A lot of ups and downs, but I feel like this past week I really felt like myself – like my 2018 self,” Fuentes said. “I really haven’t felt like that in a really long time.”
His manager sees it, too.
“When Josh Fuentes gets going, it’s hard to stop him,” said manager Warren Schaeffer, who said he was fairly certain Fuentes’ cycle was the first he has seen in person.
But as perfect a night as Fuentes had until that sixth-inning grand slam, the game has a way of humbling the best of them.
In his next at bat, again with the bases loaded this time in the seventh inning, Fuentes admits this time, he had a different mind-set. He wanted another home run.
“Oh 100%,” Fuentes said. “You’ve already got the cycle, we’re up by a lot.”
Instead, he was beaned right in butt, leading to a ginger trot down to first base.
He did finish 4-for 4 at the plate, though, with six RBIs, three runs scored and a bruise.
CONTINUING THE CYCLE: Fuentes’ cycle on Thursday was the ninth time an Isotopes player hit for the cycle in franchise history.
• Joshua Fuentes (Thursday)
• Noel Cuevas (April 10, 2019)
• Pat Valaika (April 8, 2017)
• Valaika (Aug. 22, 2016)
• Tom Murphy (July 14, 2016)
• Robert Andino (Aug. 21, 2008)
• Derek Wathan (July 1, 2004)
• Joe Dillon (June 14, 2004)
• Gerald Williams (July 24, 2003)
LET’S KEEP PLAYING: Thursday night started for the Isotopes, and all of Triple-A baseball, a 10-game “Final Stretch” of games, as dubbed by Major League Baseball, that wasn’t originally included on the schedule.
With five at home and five on the road for all squads, the team with the best record in this stretch will be rewardd by MLB with cash, though it’s unclear exactly how much.
What is clear is MLB is also donating $50 to each team’s local charity for every home run hit in final 10 games. The Isotopes hit three on Thursday and will be giving its money to Enlace Comunitario.
‘TOPES FRIDAY: Vs. Reno
6:35 p.m., 610 AM/95.9 FM, abqisotopes.com
PROMOTION: Fan Appreciation Night, Little League Night
PROBABLES: Aces TBA vs. Isotopes RHP Frank Duncan (5-3, 4.19)
THURSDAY: The Isotopes’ Joshua Fuentes hit for the cycle and drove in six runs in the first game of the Isotopes’ final home series of the season in defeating Reno 13-5. (Click here for the box score.)
NOTABLE: The Isotopes have gone 125 straight games without a pitcher completing seven innings. The last to do so was Chris Rusin on Aug. 29, 2019.