The Albuquerque Isotopes did not make it easy on themselves as they held off the Colorado Springs Sky Sox 5-4 at Isotopes Park on Monday night.
Albuquerque (25-18) blew a 4-1 lead in the eighth before scratching across a run in the bottom of the frame.
Merkin Valdez was perfect in the ninth, getting a great running catch from Trent Oeltjen in right field and then striking out the last two batters to pick up his third save.
“Fortunately we were able to get the lead back right away and Merkin had an impressive ninth inning,” manager Lorenzo Bundy said.
Tim Sexton had a solid first start for the Isotopes. Recalled from Single-A Great Lakes (Midland, Mich.) on Friday, the right-hander allowed just one run — Ian Stewart’s homer in the second inning — and three hits while striking out three and not walking a batter in six innings.
“Keeping the ball down was the biggest thing,” Sexton said. “It’s kind of one of those things that works in every league.”
Bundy liked what he saw from the 23-year-old right-hander.
“We were real impressed,” Bundy said. “It was as good as a pitching performance as we saw (Sunday) from (John) Ely.”
The Isotopes saw their three-run lead disappear in the eighth as Travis Schlichting allowed three straight singles to start the frame, with pinch hitter Josh Fields’ single to left cutting the lead to 4-2.
After a sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third, lefty Wilkin de la Rosa (3-0) came in to face Charlie Blackmon, who grounded out to second while Jeff Salazar scored to make it a one-run game.
De la Rosa then gave up an RBI single to Chris Nelson to tie it and walked Stewart and Jordan Pacheco. Mike Jacobs launched a 3-1 pitch to left, but Trayvon Robinson caught it at the fence.
“That play by Tray was even more impressive because we were battling to throw strikes,” Bundy said. “A lot of times the defense will get on its heels and not be able to make a play. We’ve got to give Tray credit for making that play.”
Robinson drew a one-out walk in the bottom of the eight and then stole second base. Damaso Espino followed with a single to left to score Robinson with what proved to be the winning run.
“We’ve got give Tray for making that play and then for battling out his at-bat after getting down 0-2 to work the walk, steal second, get in scoring position and score the game-winning run,” Bundy said.
Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake, in the first game of a rehab assignment, went 0-for-3 at the plate, striking out twice. He did make a pair of solid defensive plays, throwing out runners from behind the third base bag.
John Lindsey was 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBI for the Isotopes. Jamie Hoffmann and Espino each had three hits, with Espino adding three RBI and Hoffmann scoring twice.
Albuquerque native Pacheco, a former UNM and La Cueva High standout, started at catcher for Colorado Springs (18-27) and went 0-for-3.
The Isotopes and Sky Sox will continue their series Tuesday at 6:35 p.m.