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7th Inning Wrecks 'Topes

By Randy Harrison
Journal Staff Writer
    Here's what you get when crossing a red-hot Redbird and an ineffective Isotopes bullpen:
    An ugly wreck of a seven-run seventh inning that gave Memphis a 12-10 victory over Albuquerque on Saturday night before a crowd announced at 13,009, the seventh largest in Isotopes history.
    John Rodriguez slammed two home runs, including a prodigious grand slam in the seventh inning off reliever Matt Perisho, leading Memphis to its second win over the 'Topes in as many nights.
    It gave reliever Josh Pearce (1-1) the win despite his allowing three runs in the sixth, all coming on a pinch-hit homer by Derek Wathan for an 8-4 Isotopes lead.
    Rodriguez, who also went deep on Friday in Memphis' 4-2 win over Albuquerque, is on a remarkable tear. The two homers gave him 15 in 100 at-bats over 28 games with the Redbirds. Four of those have been grand slams, which already ties a Pacific Coast League season record set by Portland's Eric Soderholm in 1971.
    "Yeah, I'm definitely surprised," said Rodriguez, a 27-year-old New Yorker. "I really can't explain it. I'm just seeing the ball well. Seriously, I can't explain it."
    Rodriguez was acquired on June 9 from Cleveland. In 46 games this season for the Indians' Triple-A team in Buffalo, Rodriguez batted an unremarkable .247 with five homers and 23 RBI.
    "Sometimes a change of scenery does wonders for a guy," said Redbirds manager Danny Sheaffer. "I saw him for a full season in Double-A with the Yankees and I liked him. Of the three outfielders on that club, two are in the big leagues right now, and I thought he was as good as them at that point."
    In the fateful seventh, Ben Howard relieved Jeff Fulchino, faced three batters and retired none, leaving with the bases loaded. Lefty Matt Perisho (0-1) came in to face Gonzalez, who launched the first delivery well over the concourse beyond the right-field fence.
    And that was only the start. Two walks and a single ended Perisho's night. Frank Castillo allowed a sacrifice fly and Brad Cresse's two-run double to add to the misery.
    "The only thing you can do is make the moves that give your team its best chance," said Reggie Jefferson, interim Isotopes manager while Dean Treanor served the second of his two-game suspension. "The guy killed us last night and he did it again tonight. He's swinging the bat well."
    Rodriguez was hitting .172 (5 for 29) against lefties. But one of those hits was a three-run pinch-hit homer against Perisho in Memphis on June 20, a game the Isotopes won 7-6 in 11 innings.
    "Last time was a slider. This time was a curve," said Rodriguez. "I was just looking for something out over the plate to hit to the outfield since it was bases loaded, nobody out."
    Albuquerque thus wasted a four-run first against Anthony Reyes, a top Cardinals prospect who had thrown a complete game one-hitter against Portland on May 19. He lasted just five innings and gave up five runs.
    Larry Barnes and Josh Wilson had three hits each. Joe Dillon homered and has hit in all 13 games since returning from the Florida Marlins.
    NOTES: Albuquerque added one veteran right-hander to its roster and could be on the verge of bringing on another. Clint Sodowsky, who pitched parts of the last two seasons with the Isotopes, was activated Saturday night. Also, the oft-traveled Al Levine, who has played for seven big league teams over a 10-year career, is in town. Released by the San Francisco Giants in June, he could be signing a minor league free-agent deal.
    ... Left-hander Donovan Osborne (0-0, 7.20) pitches tonight for the Isotopes against Memphis lefty Bill Pulsipher (3-3, 4.24). It's the final game before the All-Star break and the last Isotopes home game until July 26.
    Memphis at Albuquerque, 6:05 p.m. Radio: KNML-AM (610)