Few things in baseball are more inherently surprising than a starting pitcher hitting a three-run home run.
One of them is a relief pitcher hitting a three-run home run.
Pretty much all the Albuquerque Isotopes – the expected and the unexpected – got in on the fun on a zany Thursday night at Isotopes Park, and that included reliever Matt Flemer. He clubbed a three-run shot and was also the winning pitcher in the Isotopes’ longish (3 hours and 29 minutes) but entertaining 12-8 victory over visiting Memphis in the second-half opener for both teams.
Albuquerque belted a season-high five home runs Thursday, including two from red-hot sensation David Dahl. The white-hot Tom Murphy (18 hits in his last 24 at-bats) homered and hit for the cycle.
But the long ball that really put a charge into the dugout was the swing by Flemer, who was using a Nolan Arenado bat loaned out by Albuquerque teammate Eddie Butler.
“That was big,” said Dahl. “Flemer can swing the bat. To see him get ahold of one was nice.”
Said Murphy, smiling: “It was incredible. That’s one of those things you can feed off for the rest of the game.”
Naturally, the most pressing question that needed to be posed to Flemer was: When was the last time he hit a home run?
“Fall ball in college (about five years ago),” said the 25-year-old Flemer, an occasional starter who was 1-for-8 at the plate before his blast into the Isotopes bullpen. “It was cool to see the smiles (in the dugout). I was trying as hard as I could not to smile.”
Flemer was summoned early Thursday, after the starter, Chris Rusin, exited in the top of the second inning on a rehab start. Rusin last started for the parent Colorado Rockies on June 8 and threw six scoreless innings in a 1-0 victory over the Dodgers. He went on the DL June 14 with a left shoulder strain.
Flemer (5-3) pitched 41/3 innings to earn the victory.
At the dish, Flemer’s three-run shot to left came early, in the bottom of the second, part of a four-run outburst that put Albuquerque (38-53) ahead 6-2.
The Isotopes rapped out 17 hits against four Redbirds’ pitchers, and extended their wraparound winning streak to four games – the team’s longest streak since reeling off seven straight from April 18-24.
But it wasn’t easy; Memphis loaded the bases with nobody out and had the tying run at the plate in the top of the ninth. But Scott Oberg closed the door emphatically, striking out the side.
The Isotopes have hit nine homers in their last two games. The four they registered last Saturday at Las Vegas had been a season best.
“The pitching was already there,” said Murphy, the first Isotope to hit for the cycle since Robert Andino in 2008. “Now we’re starting to swing it.”
Dahl and Jordan Patterson went back-to-back in the bottom of the first, clearing the fence in right center in nearly the same spot.
Dahl, fresh off his appearance in Sunday’s Futures’ Game in San Diego, finished 3-for-5 with a homer and triple and is batting .516 (16-for-31) in seven games with the Isotopes.
Murphy’s cycle occurred in his final four at-bats – a home run in the third, a double in the fourth, a single in the sixth and the catcher legged out a triple in the eighth. Oddly enough, all four hits were to the opposite (right) field. It was the first cycle in the Pacific Coast League this season.
His home run was his team-leading 12th of the season.
Every position player on both teams, except Albuquerque’s Ben Paulsen, had at least one hit. The teams combined for 34 hits.