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Rain, Chihuahuas spoil fireworks night

Tim Smalling of the Isotopes, left, manages to stretch in time to tag out El Paso’s Travis Jankowski on Saturday night. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Tim Smalling of the Isotopes, left, manages to stretch in time to tag out El Paso’s Travis Jankowski on Saturday night. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Despite a late-afternoon deluge and a pregame rain delay of 15 minutes, an announced crowd of 11,441 made it to Isotopes Park on Saturday night for the Isotopes’ fourth game in four nights against bitter rival El Paso.

And most remained until the end, despite the Isotopes’ 11-8 loss.

OK, the game was against the Chihuahuas.

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But it very well could have been against the Poodles, Basset Hounds, Beagles Peek-A-Poms or Neapolitian Mastiffs.

Few, if any, of the folks on hand were there to see the Chihuahuas. Or even the Isotopes, for that matter.

Nope, it was one of many Fireworks Nights this season at the old ball yard and despite the earlier wet stuff, the fans got the postgame show they were counting on.

As for the pre-show product – the game – it was more of the same for an Albuquerque team that continues to stumble through its debut season as the Triple-A franchise of the Colorado Rockies.

There were certainly standout moments for the ‘Topes – like outfielder Tim Wheeler’s three-run bomb over the left-center-field fence that pulled his team within 6-5 in the bottom of the fourth.

But, as has been the case too many times during this losing season (50-65), the Isotopes found enough ways to make key mistakes at key times and leave the diamond with another setback.

Albuquerque looked like it had something going with runners on first and second and one out in the fifth, but Tim Smalling was thrown out trying to steal third and the rally fizzled.

It really unraveled for the ‘Topes in El Paso’s half of the sixth, which actually started very innocently.

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Albuquerque starter Boone Whiting (3-6) retired the first two batters and only had to set down opposing hurler Dennis O’Grady to end the inning. Instead, O’Grady – making his Triple-A season debut – ripped a triple to center. That was the beginning of the end for Whiting, a guy with more walks (48) than strikeouts (37) this year.

Whiting had two of each on Saturday while allowing 11 hits and eight runs – seven earned – in 52/3 innings.

In the top of the sixth, with Grady on third, Travis Jankowski ripped an RBI single. Nelson Gonzalez replaced Whiting on the mound. Gonzalez quickly got the Isotopes out of the inning – or so it appeared.

He got Ramiro Peña to hit a weak grounder to first baseman Wilin Rosario, but Rosario threw wildly to Gonzalez, who was covering first, for an error that allowed Jankowski to score. Jake Goebbert added an RBI single to cap the inning and make it 9-5.

Smalling had a two-run homer to pull the Isotopes within 10-7 in the seventh, but that was it for the home team’s fireworks for the night.

Until the ones the folks came for started after the game.

NOTE: Albuquerque and El Paso conclude their rare five-game series tonight. After an off day, the Isotopes welcome Fresno for four games beginning Tuesday night. First pitch, for the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday games, is 6:35 p.m. The Friday game is a 7:05 start.


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