Once upon a time, otherwise known as June, the Albuquerque Isotopes would not have survived a start like the one Kyle Freeland had Saturday night.
These days, having a starter give up six runs is no big deal, not with the way the Isotopes are swinging the bats. Albuquerque blew a 5-0 lead, later went down 8-7 in the ninth and yet still beat Memphis 9-8.
"It’s contagious, they are playing well, they expect to play well," manager Glenallen Hill said. "They have great attitudes."
The Isotopes (40-53) have won six in a row behind what has easily been the best offensive month of their season. This time around, Ben Paulsen kicked off the ninth with a double down the left field line.
Two batters later, Jordan Patterson smoked a triple to center field to tie the game. Jeff Bianchi, down 0-2 in the count against Redbirds closer Sam Tuivailala (2-2), smacked a little floater over the head of first baseman Efren Navarro to drive in Patterson.
"I asked Jordan Patterson in the bottom of the sixth inning, ‘Do you want to win this game?’" Hill said. "He said, ‘Absolutely.’ I don’t know how it turned out that he came up in the last inning and had a big hit, but that’s just what happened."
Albuquerque had its big night without much of a contribution from its two hottest hitters. Tom Murphy earned a night off, while David Dahl was only 1-for-3 with a run, an RBI and two walks. It snapped Dahl’s streak of having three or more hits in every home game this season.
Other hitters stepped up. Rafael Ynoa went 2-for-4 with a key two-run single in the fourth inning. Alex Castellanos had an RBI triple in the fourth. Dustin Garneau was 3-for-5 with a run scored.
It was still enough to rough up Redbirds right-hander Alex Reyes, who was recently named the No. 2 prospect in the minors by Baseball America. Reyes was charged with five runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out six in five innings.
The biggest hit in the middle of the game was Stephen Cardullo’s two-run double in the sixth that tied the game 7-7.
"The mood was a little downcast after the sixth inning when Memphis scored four runs, (but) then we came back and scored two," Hill said. "At that point, I knew we had a chance."
That came after Freeland, who had battled and lucked out through four innings, finally had the wheels come off. The lefty gave up three runs in the fifth on five hits. Freeland gave up a single, a walk, a sacrifice bunt and another single in the sixth before he was finally lifted. Simon Castro came on and gave up an RBI single to Harrison Bader and a two-run double to former Isotope Jeremy Hazelbaker that put Memphis up 7-5.
Freeland was charged with six of those runs, all earned, on 11 hits and three walks in 5.1 innings. He struck out four, but overall threw just 58 of 105 pitches for strikes.
"I think that he has a disposition that is kind of a double-edged sword," Hill said. "He is a battler and sometimes that battle isn’t against the other team, it’s against himself. That’s what I saw (tonight), him fighting himself."
The Isotopes will go for the series sweep of the Redbirds on Sunday at 6:05 p.m. Lefty Harrison Musgrave (4-5, 4.37 ERA) gets the nod against Memphis right-hander Deck McGuire (6-7, 4.81).