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Brandon Barnes goes boom as red-hot Isotopes sweep Grizzlies

Albuquerque makes it six wins in a row and 15 wins in its last 17 games to move even closer to first place

Brandon Barnes belted a walkoff two-run homer as the Isotopes swept the Fresno Grizzlies.
Brandon Barnes belted a walkoff two-run homer as the Isotopes swept the Fresno Grizzlies.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

The Albuquerque Isotopes set off the stadium fire alarm Tuesday night.

It came during their new tradition, the postgame clubhouse dance party, complete with flashing lights and a smoke machine, the latter of which tripped the alarm.

"I’ll take the blame for it," right fielder Brandon Barnes said with a smile.

That also served as a nice metaphor for the red-hot Isotopes, who defeated the Fresno Grizzlies 6-4 in 10 innings on Barnes’ walkoff home run, sweeping the four-game series.

"Brandon Barnes has been swinging the bat extremely well," manager Glenallen Hill said. "He’s hit some balls extremely hard over the course of this series. It’s one of those things where on any given night it can be anyone."

Albuquerque (63-66) has won six in a row and 15 of its last 17 games. First-place El Paso lost 4-2 to Salt Lake, meaning the Chihuahuas’ lead has dwindled to 4.5 games. That sets up a five-game series that begins Wednesday night at 6:35 that could go a long way to deciding the division with 14 games left to play.

"It’s in our hands," Barnes said. "The number of how many games we were behind hasn’t gotten to us. We just go out and try to win that inning, win that pitch, win that game."

Barnes was the hero in this contest in more ways than one. He made a spectacular leaping catch against the wall in the third inning to rob Max Stassi of extra bases. Barnes then topped that with a diving catch against Tyler White in the 10th in right-center.

Then came the bottom of that final frame. Tom Murphy struck out, but Mike Tauchman singled up the middle to bring up Barnes. He hammered a 1-0 pitch from Jordan Jankowski (2-3) into the Fresno bullpen in left-center.

"The biggest thing is every single guy in here has confidence," Barnes said. "That’s the biggest thing I try to push on people. If you can play here, you can play at the next level. It’s just the little things, learning to do those right."

Barnes lost his spots on the Rockies’ 25- and 40-man rosters earlier this season. He has not let it faze him since returning. The postgame dance party was his idea, along with Chris Nelson.

"We’re having fun, I think you can see that by the club scene tonight," Barnes said. "When I came down, my goal was to help. Whatever it may be, coming off the bench, playing once a series, playing every game, my job is to help the young guys play the game the right way."

Hill has seen a definite change in Barnes since he returned on Aug. 3.

"He is being what Brandon Barnes should be," Hill said. "When he came back after being at home, he told me I found myself. I said good, that’s what I’ve been waiting for. It couldn’t happen to a better guy."

Barnes’ late heroics almost overshadowed the earlier ridiculousness of Murphy, who belted two more home runs and finished 3-for-5 with three RBI, with the second homer tying the game at 4-4 in the sixth inning. Since July 1, Murphy has hit .468 (59-for-126) with 12 of his team-leading 19 homers.

"With Murphy I’m hoping that he can continue to move forward and stay consistent," Hill said. "He’s been consistent this whole second half. It’s been really nice for him, for us, for the Rockies’ organization. Not only is he swinging the bat well, he is catching well and showing great leadership."

Murphy said the whole team is just riding a wave of confidence right now.

"I think you can tell right now how we react after a win; it’s the most fun we’ve had playing baseball all year," Murphy said. "When it’s a team effort like that, it makes it even better."

Starter German Marquez allowed four runs on six hits and three walks in 5.2 innings. He struck out six but clearly ran out of gas in the sixth inning, when he gave up three runs.

The good news was the bullpen stepped up big, with Justin Miller, Sam Moll and Brian Schlitter (1-2) combining for 4.1 shutout innings.

"It’s just command," Murphy said. "It seems like their focus is really good. They come out with intent, they come out with purpose and they execute their pitches."

Now comes the huge series with the Chihuahuas, with four final games looming in El Paso from Sept. 2-5 to close the season.

"I hope we keep it as loose as possible," Murphy said.