Isotopes fall to El Paso in home finale - Albuquerque Journal

Isotopes fall to El Paso in home finale

El Paso’s Jose Rondon slides back to first as Albuquerque Jordan Patterson defends. Patterson was named the team’s MVP. Greg Sorber/Journal

Pregame ceremony and a postgame fireworks display surrounded the Albuquerque Isotopes’ home finale Sunday night.

The El Paso Chihuahuas put on a dog show in between.

Nick Torres homered twice and El Paso all but doused the Isotopes’ fading playoff hopes with a 9-4 victory in the clincher of a five-game series. The Chihuahuas moved 5½ games ahead of the ‘Topes in the PCL’s Pacific Southern Division with time running out on second-place Albuquerque. El Paso has eight games remaining, and the Isotopes have nine.

Having trimmed what was once a 17-game deficit to 4½, the Isotopes kept a dramatic home finish within reach for most of Sunday’s game. Tom Murphy’s RBI single and Mike Tauchman’s run-scoring ground out in the eighth trimmed El Paso’s lead to 5-4.

But the Chihuahuas piled on with four runs in the ninth.

“I wouldn’t call it frustrating” ‘Topes manager Glenallen Hill said. “Sour, that’s what I’d call it.

“That’s what happens when you play good teams, you give them an opening and they land big punches.”

Kyle Freeland pitched six mostly effective innings for the Isotopes but was stung by three big hits. El Paso’s Nick Torres blasted a pair of solo home runs to left field, and Manuel Margot rolled a two-run double down the left-field line.

Albuquerque fought back, twice trimming three-run deficits to a single run. Raimel Tapia went 3-for-5 with an RBI single in the Isotopes’ two-run fifth.

But Margot followed with perhaps the game’s biggest play, retreating and spinning to make a scrambling catch of Pat Valaika’s fly ball to the warning track in center field. It came with the bases loaded and turned a potential bases-clearing hit into a sacrifice fly. El Paso escaped the inning with a 3-2 lead and the Isotopes never quite got even.

Albuquerque’s final road trip includes five games in Salt Lake City and four in El Paso. Hill said the Isotopes’ goal now is to make the last four games count.

“It’s unfortunate we couldn’t get this one,” Hill said, “but we still have a pulse. We’re looking forward to going to Salt Lake and getting after it. Hopefully, we can take it right to the end.”

PLAYER AWARDS: The Isotopes announced their annual Players’ Choice Awards prior to Sunday’s game and Jordan Patterson claimed MVP honors. The outfielder/first baseman came into the game hitting .300 with 13 home runs and 59 RBIs.

“I don’t think Jordan had more than a five- or six-game slump all year,” Hill said. “He had a consistent year and worked very hard in the outfield and at first base. (MVP) was well-deserved.”

Other award winners as chosen by the players were as follows: Defensive player of the year — outfielder Mike Tauchman; Pitcher of the year — Jeff Hoffman; Power hitter of the year — catcher Tom Murphy; Mr. Hustle—outfielder Stephen Cardullo.

Infielder Chris Nelson was named Fan Favorite, an award decided through fan votes. Infielder Tim Smalling was honored as the Most Community Minded Isotope.

8 MILLION AND COUNTING: With an announced crowd of 11,797 the Isotopes surpassed the 8 million mark in total attendance since Isotopes Park opened in 2003. The club needed 3,032 fans to reach 8 million but did not hold a countdown to identify the milestone-setting fan.

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