The Albuquerque Isotopes saw their playoff hopes go up in smoke in the second game of a doubleheader Wednesday night.
Albuquerque lost 7-6 to Reno in eight innings. Coupled with Salt Lake’s 7-2 win at Tacoma, and the Isotopes (65-71) were officially eliminated.
“Very tough loss in game two,” manager Glenallen Hill said. “I thought we had the momentum and then that (five-run fifth) inning got away from us.”
Ryan Howard blasted a walkoff two-run homer in the eighth inning of the first game for a 6-4 victory. The monster shot to dead center was Howard’s second in 11 games with Albuquerque.
Aces 7, Isotopes 6: Zach Borenstein was the thorn in Albuquerque’s side, hitting a go-ahead grand slam in the fifth and then tripling and scoring on an error in the eighth.
James Farris (1-3) fielded a chopper by Evan Marzilli, looked back Borenstein and then threw too close to Marzilli, who clipped Ryan McMahon and knocked the ball loose for an error. Borenstein scampered home with what proved to be the winning run.
Jimmy Sherfy picked up his 23rd save, setting down the Isotopes in order in the bottom of the frame.
Howard had tied the game in the sixth with pinch-hit sacrifice fly that drove in Tom Murphy, who had doubled to lead off the inning and went to third on a sac bunt by Derrik Gibson.
McMahon hit a two-run homer back in the first inning and finished the game 3-for-4.
“I thought (Zach) Jemiola started the game (and) it was his best start,” Hill said. “He really showed me and probably showed you, wow, this kid is the real deal. I think things kind of sped up and it kind of got away from him.”
Jemiola only allowed one run through four innings before being charged with all five in the disastrous fifth. The Isotopes’ choppy defense did not help matters.
“They weren’t really errors but they were plays that should be made,” Hill said. “(Jemiola) battled through a lot of that. It was kind of weird.”
Isotopes 6, Aces 4: In the first game, Howard’s two-run shot in the eighth inning salvaged a contest that Albuquerque once led 4-0.
Jeff Hoffman (4-2) turned things around from his last start, where he didn’t make it out of the first inning. This time around the right-hander allowed just two runs on four hits and one walk in five-plus innings, striking out eight.
“He pitched and executed exactly what he wanted to do, and he looked great,” Hill said. “The fans got a chance to see the Hoffman that they’ve seen on TV.”
Hoffman tossed five scoreless innings before hitting a batter, throwing a wild pitch and giving up a bloop RBI single to start the sixth. Reliever Zac Rosscup then surrendered a two-run homer to Borenstein and an RBI double to Michael Perez that left the game tied until Howard’s heroics in the eighth.
“There’s no substitute for experience and he’s definitely at that point where (Howard) knows how to get ready,” Hill said. “I don’t think that there’s very much that surprises him.”
Albuquerque had jumped out in the first inning as Mike Tauchman doubled, McMahon tripled and Jordan Patterson belted a towering two-run homer to the right field berm. Anthony Bemboom tripled in the fourth and scored on Daniel Castro’s RBI single to make it 4-0.
The Isotopes will face the Aces for the final home game of the season Thursday at 6:35 p.m. Right-hander Yency Almonte (2-1, 5.90 ERA) will start against Reno right-hander Taylor Clark (3-1, 5.20).