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Murphy’s homer rescues Isotopes

For 3 hours and 49 minutes of Sunday night’s game at Isotopes Park, Tom Murphy wasn’t exactly enjoying the evening.

His final swing of the night was all that mattered.

The 25-year-old catcher sent a rocket over the left-center field wall with two outs for a two-run home run, giving the Albuquerque Isotopes a thrilling 6-4, 12-inning win over the visiting Las Vegas 51s in front of an announced crowd of 5,974.

“I knew that guy kind of was a slider guy coming in,” Murphy said of his game-winning home run off Las Vegas reliever Zack Thornton. “That was his main pitch. I just sat the whole at-bat, tried to look for a slider that was up in the zone.”

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The win was the team’s sixth in its last nine, and third in the four-game home stand with the 51s. And for ‘Topes (29-34), who labored through a dreadful stretch of 5-17 baseball between May 10 and June 2, the celebration at home plate — and the mood in the clubhouse afterward — was telling of a team seemingly rejuvenated in mid-June.

And for Murphy, the win, and how it occurred in the final at-bat, let him off the hook for what had been an 0-for-5 night prior, including three strikeouts and leaving three runners in scoring position. The most frustrating of all was his swinging strikeout against Josh Smoker to end the 10th inning with Isotopes teammate Jose Reyes stranded 90 feet away at third base and the game knotted 3-3.

Murphy didn’t hide his frustration and took his time getting back out of the dugout to catch the 11th inning.

But, while he settled down, the drama didn’t.

The Isotopes benefited from inning-ending double plays in the 11th and 12th innings, both with runners in scoring position, to limit damage — no runs in the 11th and one run scored in the top of the 12th for a 4-3 advantage when Las Vegas first baseman Eric Camble hit an RBI single to right field.

In the bottom of the 12th, Isotopes center fielder Brandon Barnes led things off with a single, stole second and advanced to third on an error to set up Stephen Cardullo for a game-tying RBI single to left.

Two batters later, Murphy ended things with his home run, making a winner out of lefty Yohan Flande, who allowed two hits and walked two over the final two innings of relief for the ‘Topes.

Albuquerque out-hit Las Vegas 12-11 and benefited from three 51’s errors.

IN A PINCH: Hill is living the charmed life of late with his decisions on pinch hitters.

The Isotopes started the season hitting just .103 through its first 29 pinch-hit at bats, without any going for extra bases.

In the team’s past seven pinch-hit situations, the ‘Topes are 5-of-7 with a pair of doubles.

Sunday, the ‘Topes were 2-for-3 in pinch hit situations — a Joey Wong single in the 6th and Jordan Patterson’s double to lead off the bottom half of the eighth that eventually led to tying the game at 2-2.

Even Mike Tauchman’s pinch-hit at bat with two outs in the bottom of the ninth was productive. Before grounding out to first base, a wild pitch scored Bianchi from third to send the game into extra innings, tied 3-3.

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