The Albuquerque Isotopes’ game Friday night was a good illustration of life in the minor leagues.
The home team threw a raucous promotion, rebranding as the Green Chile Cheeseburgers to take on the visiting Fresno Tacos in front of 11,641 fans.
All fun and games aside, though, there was still a game to be played. It was just one of those games that nearly went off the rails for both teams.
Albuquerque staged a valiant rally in the ninth but ultimately lost 15-14 to split the offense-laden four-game series.
Getting the pitchers refocused and ready to go again will be the challenge for the coaching staff.
“These players are used to being challenged and they wouldn’t have made it this far and they have all have had their bumps,” Isotopes manager Glenallen Hill said. “When you have a player or a pitcher or a team that’s going through this, it’s easy to look at the things that didn’t go right. But you’ve got to stay focused on the process. You have to believe in what you believe will make you successful. You have to be really good self evaluators of the game.”
Ryan McMahon was the man again for the Isotopes (33-34), going 5-for-6 with two home runs and seven RBI. He was the first Isotope to record five hits in a game since the team affiliated with the Colorado Rockies.
At one point, McMahon had a hit in nine straight at-bats. Overall, he’s 10 for his last 11.
“Nah, this is definitely the hottest I’ve ever been, everything just seems to fall,” McMahon said.
Hill said all the team can do now is just let him keep going.
“What you do with him on a daily basis, you don’t stop doing,” Hill said. “He just happens to be in one of those times where the game has slowed down for him. That’s what we want all of our guys to experience.”
The game was a grueling back-and-forth brawl between the two clubs in the final game of the series.
“I’m just really proud of this team tonight,” McMahon said. “We almost came all the way back. I’m proud of the team, just taking it at-bat by at-bat.”
Albuquerque was up 6-1, down 7-6, tied it at 7 and then found itself trailing 14-7. Still, the Isotopes kept chipping away. Noel Cuevas hit a two-run homer in the seventh to make it 14-9.
Fresno (33-35) got what proved to be the winning run in the eighth. Jon Kemmer drew a two-out walk off Jairo Diaz and Tyler White followed with an RBI double to left. White went 5-for-6 on the night, the same as McMahon, also batting out of the No. 2 spot.
The Isotopes had one last rally left in them in the ninth. Cristhian Adames smashed a two-out, two-run homer to left. Daniel Castro and Rosell Herrera followed with back-to-back singles.
McMahon then crushed his fifth home run in the last three games, another blast to dead center, to pull his team within a run. The Grizzlies brought in Brendan McCurry at that point, and he got Mike Tauchman to ground out to end the game.
Taking this series the hardest were the pitchers. Albuquerque starter Sam Howard, back up from Double-A Hartford, allowed five runs on 10 hits and two walks in 5 2 /3 innings.
Shane Carle (0-3) came on in relief of Howard and got pummeled, allowing seven runs, six earned, on six hits and a walk in two-thirds of an inning.
“In games like these where there’s a lot of offense on both sides, it’s kind of an interesting situation,” Hill said. “We aren’t used to playing games like that at this level. Innings that take 15 to 20 minutes are kind of ridiculous. This whole series has been like that, very offensive barrage of just balls finding holes and balls going really far.”
At the very least, the players did manage to enjoy the festive surroundings of Green Chile Cheeseburger night.
“As long as it’s comfortable, we don’t have a problem with it,” McMahon said. “Luckily the jerseys were comfortable and we had fun with it going out there.
“Tonight was packed (too), it was awesome.”
The Isotopes will hit the road for four games at Sacramento starting Saturday at 8:05 p.m. Lefty Harrison Musgrave (1-1, 7.30 ERA) gets the nod against a River Cats starter to be announced.