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Pat Valaika's cycle backs Freeland's brilliant outing for Isotopes

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Shortstop posts Albuquerque's second cycle of the season while lefty tosses seven one-hit innings

Pat Valaika hit for the Isotopes' second cycle of the season as Albuquerque defeated Fresno.
Pat Valaika hit for the Isotopes' second cycle of the season as Albuquerque defeated Fresno.
Tim March for Moji

This hitting-for-the-cycle trend is taking off at Isotopes Park.

For the second time this season, a member of the home team racked up a single, double, triple and home run. Tom Murphy did it first back on July 14, Pat Valaika matched him on Monday night.

Valaika did a reverse natural cycle, hitting his first Triple-A home run in the first inning, smacking a triple in the fourth, a double in the sixth and a two-run single in the eighth.

"I knew, but I was telling the guys, I’d rather hit a double," Valaika said. "I wasn’t trying to hit a single, but the situation came up, it was second and third. My thought process was just getting the run in anyway. I wasn’t thinking of hitting the single, it just happened."

It all came together in a 7-1 Isotopes victory over the Fresno Grizzlies, the team’s fifth straight win and 14th in 16 games. They moved within 5.5 games of first-place El Paso, which lost 2-0 to Salt Lake, with 15 games left in the season. The Chihuahuas had a 17-game lead on the Isotopes (62-66) back on July 7.

Valaika entered the game batting .255/.255/.340 in 12 games with Albuquerque. He had four doubles but no home runs or triples, though those stats don’t tell the whole story.

"He’s just a young man that’s really thriving in this environment," manager Glenallen Hill said. "I think creating that environment here has helped him relax and you’re seeing his talent come out."

The single, though, was not assured as he was scheduled to bat fourth in the eighth inning. Rafael Ynoa hit a leadoff single but Joey Wong grounded into a force out. Raimel Tapia followed with a double to right-center to set the table for Valaika, who smashed a grounder up the middle past second base, driving in two runs.

While Valaika was doing his thing, Kyle Freeland (5-2) was nothing short of brilliant on the mound. The lefty allowed just a bloop double to left field, tossing seven shutout innings. He struck out four and did not walk a batter.

"He was amazing," Valaika said. "He was throwing everything for strikes, he set the tone for us. That was one of the best performances I’ve seen him throw."

Freeland had 91 pitches, 59 for strikes, through seven innings, but the Isotopes opted to bring in reliever Gonzalez Germen for the eighth.

"Everything was working for me tonight," Freeland said. "I had a night where I had a good four-pitch mix. I had command and control of all four of those pitches. I filled up the zone and we put the pressure on them to put the ball in play. When they did, they were weak groundballs and pop-ups and we got the outs."

Freeland would have liked to pitch the eighth, but he understood his night was over.

"I did, yeah, but I knew my pitch count was getting real high, I didn’t know what the exact number was," Freeland said.

Freeland credited pitching coach Darryl Scott with making the slightest change to his delivery that helped him turn it up a notch.

"We made an adjustment last start where I stayed behind the ball more and stayed on top of the rubber longer, which allowed me to stay on my back leg longer and stay through the baseball and I had more command on my pitches," Freeland said.

As for other prospects, Tom Murphy went 3-for-4, while Jordan Patterson struggled and was 0-for-5. Tapia finished 1-for-4.

The Isotopes will go for the series sweep of the Grizzlies on Tuesday at 6:35 p.m.