The Albuquerque Isotopes looked dead in the water through four innings Sunday night.
Harrison Musgrave had given up five runs while former Isotope Zach Lee had retired 12 straight batters for the El Paso Chihuahuas.
Then, much as he did in 2014, Lee melted down and Albuquerque jumped all over him and three relievers en route to a 12-5 victory.
It was quite the turnaround after a dramatic and frustrating 13-10 loss in 14 innings on Saturday.
Lee (1-2) was cruising along against his old club until the fifth. Jordan Patterson walked on a full count and Dustin Garneau followed with an infield single.
Domonic Brown then tripled into the gap in right-center to drive in a pair. He came around to score on Cristhian Adames’ sacrifice fly.
In the sixth, Ryan McMahon smoked a double to right. Two batters later, Patterson singled to right to make it a one-run game, coming within inches of a home run.
Lee was pulled in favor of Rafael De Paula, who then served up a two-run homer to Garneau that put the Isotopes (38-37) ahead for good.
“Well, I think it speaks to our hitters’ communication in the dugout,” manager Glenallen Hill said. “I don’t know if you noticed, but you see a lot of chatter after a guy makes an out and he’s talking to the (next) guy up there. I think they are in tune to trusting each other and looking to make adjustments.”
Albuquerque scored an additional three runs in the seventh, highlighted by Mike Tauchman’s two-run homer, and three in the eighth, capped by Rosell Herrera’s two-run single as the Isotopes won three of four in the series over the Chihuahuas (37-39).
“They’re at a good place and this is where we need them to be,” Hill said of his hitters.
All of the offense made a winner out of Musgrave (3-1), even though he was charged with those five runs on five hits and four walks in six innings. That inning total was crucial, however.
“Especially when our bullpen was taxed and we were managing outs,” Hill said. “I think he continues to move forward and open himself up to constructive criticism, which is a really good thing. He’s being proactive in seeking it and it should work out for him.”
Three relievers who struggled Saturday then came back out Sunday with far different results.
Jerry Vasto, who gave up a run in the sixth, this time around tossed a scoreless seventh, avoiding any trouble from a two-out single and walk.
Sam Moll, who walked three of the four batters he faced Saturday, this time around retired the side in order in the eighth.
Carlos Estevez, who inherited Moll’s mess Saturday and allowed all three inherited runs to score, threw a scoreless ninth on Sunday.
“All of three of them were (good),” Hill said. “When was the last time you’ve seen Sam Moll pitch like that? That’s what he’s capable of, so hopefully he can harness that and apply it when his opportunities come up.”
One bit of late drama came from El Paso. Reliever Carter Capps ran into trouble with his unusual delivery in the eighth. He was twice called for an illegal pitch, prompting manager Rod Barajas to argue the calls and get ejected.
Then, a Capps pitch bounce in the dirt and hit home plate umpire J.J. January. When Capps said or did something afterward, January ejected him. Capps was restrained by teammates and left the field chirping at Albuquerque fans.
The Isotopes will hit the road for their next eight games, starting at Fresno on Monday at 8:05 p.m. Lefty Ryan Carpenter (3-6, 5.30 ERA) gets the nod against Grizzlies right-hander David Martinez (4-7, 4.88).