The Albuquerque Isotopes finally ran out of steam Wednesday night.
Visiting El Paso survived a pitcher’s duel early and finally struck down Albuquerque 4-2 in 12 innings in the opener of a key five-game series.
The Isotopes did not let it affect them afterwards. Manager Glenallen Hill held a team meeting back in the weight room. It ended with clapping, cheering and the team jukebox and "Club Topes" resuming with the dance tunes, flashing lights and smoke machine all turned back on.
"I’m extremely happy; what is there to be sad about?" Hill said. "Rally meeting. We’ve got a certain amount of games (left). I don’t think there’s been a better team in the PCL since the All-Star break and we’ll (finish) strong. Hard work pays off."
Still, the Isotopes (63-67) saw their six-game winning streak come to an end, while also falling another game behind the Chihuahuas (69-62). Albuquerque has just 13 games remaining this season.
Jose Rondon led off the 12th with a single through the right side. After Manuel Margot’s sacrifice bunt moved him to second, Rondon scored on Carlos Asuaje’s single to right. Hunter Renfroe followed with an RBI double for an insurance run.
The Isotopes went down in order in the bottom of the frame. If there was disappointment afterwards, it was not to be found in Hill’s office or the clubhouse.
"This is all about player development," Hill said. "I talked about it (Tuesday), I talked about the process. These guys have put in a lot of work all year. For some reason, it’s all come together — the process of executing pitches, the process of playing solid defense, the process of preparing yourself on a daily basis, to not letting the moment go by if you’re not ready each and every pitch.
"The process has gotten us here, so I wanted to remind them in case we lost a game in this run, we’re not done. There’s blood in the water."
Of course, the process does not always hold up, or at least a part of it can fail. In the case of Wednesday’s game, that could be seen in the Isotopes hitters’ approaches at the plate.
El Paso starter Bryan Rodriguez needed just 50 pitches to get through six innings, the only blemish a solo home run by Brandon Barnes in the sixth.
That lack of patience at the plate was glaring compared to Albuquerque’s recent success.
"I think that their starting pitcher pitched very well," Hill said. "When we faced him before I think he walked (only) a couple guys and I think our guys figured out pretty early he was attacking the strike zone. So we were aggressive.
"Whatever decisions they’re making in the field, I trust them. The offense has been very productive for a long time. When we get into a game where the other pitcher pitches well and we don’t score many runs, our focus is to score one more than they do. We came up short tonight."
In contrast, Isotopes starter Harrison Musgrave needed 112 pitches through 6.1 innings, allowing just two unearned runs, six hits and three walks while striking out eight.
"He was competing, he was doing Musgrave, he’s been doing that his last five or six starts," Hill said. "I don’t think he expects any less of himself."
The Isotopes had a couple chances in extra innings. Raimel Tapia tripled with two outs in the 10th, but Pat Valaika grounded out to third base. Tom Murphy hit a deep drive to left-center that came up just feet shy of a walkoff home run in the 11th.
At one point, the Albuquerque bullpen had 14 straight outs from the seventh through 11th innings. Patrick McCoy (2-1), who retired the side in order in the 11th, gave up all the runs and hits in the 12th.
"We need to celebrate who we are and even though we came up short tonight, they left it on the field," Hill said. "We’re looking forward to (today)."
The Isotopes and Chihuahuas will meet again today at 6:35 p.m.