Jorge de la Rosa threw five effective innings in his second rehab start while Tim Wheeler provided the heroics in the Albuquerque Isotopes’ 6-5 victory over the visiting Tacoma Rainiers on Tuesday night. Wheeler blasted the second walkoff home run in a row for Albuquerque.
With the game tied 5-5 in the ninth, Wheeler blasted the third pitch he saw from Mark Lowe (0-1) out to the flagpole area above right-center field. Dustin Garneau hammered a leadoff, walkoff homer in the 10th inning on Monday.
“I felt good in pregame but I was just trying to get into the game, slow everything down,” Wheeler said. “That last one, I was trying to keep it simple, slow the game down and got another good pitch and hit it good.”
The similarities went beyond that for Wheeler and Garneau. They both hit home runs earlier in the contest as well.
“I’ve definitely been in two walkoff homers in a row,” Wheeler said. “But I don’t think it’s ever involved two two-homer (games) in a row, which is pretty cool.”
Wheeler looked like a top prospect after hitting 33 home runs at Double-A Tulsa in 2011. Then the injuries set in and he only had 18 homers over the next three seasons.
“Timmy had a excellent (batting practice), it was probably the best BP I’ve seen him have in a few years,” manager Glenallen Hill said. “So it’s really nice to see him have a game like that. Hopefully this will be something he can build off and build some momentum going forward.”
As for De la Rosa, he allowed three runs, two earned, on five hits. He struck out five and did not walk a batter, a definite improvement over his first rehab start last week where he walked four in four innings.
“He looked great,” Hill said. “There’s a reason why he’s No. 1.
“He just looked like himself. He’s a fierce competitor.”
While De la Rosa was getting his work done, the Isotopes (4-2) scratched out just enough offense to take the lead. Then they just had to hold it.
Wheeler’s two-run homer in the fourth inning gave Albuquerque a 4-1 lead, only to see Jabari Blash counter with his own two-run shot in the fifth to pull Tacoma within a run. Matt McBride led off the sixth with his first homer of the season, giving the Isotopes a little breathing room at 5-3.
Left-hander Aaron Laffey struck out the side in the sixth, but then loaded the bases on two singles and a walk in the seventh. After Laffey walked Shawn O’Malley to force in a run, Albuquerque brought in Tommy Kahnle.
The right-hander got the job done, retiring the Rainiers (2-4) on a lineout and two swinging strikeouts. He followed that effort with a 1-2-3 eighth inning.
“Really, I’m not trying to think too much about it,” Kahnle said. “Really just go in there, pound the zone and be aggressive. I just pitched the way I do.”
Kahnle spent all of last season with the Rockies as a Rule 5 pick, pitching effectively for the first half (2.68 ERA in 50.1 innings) before running out of gas after the All-Star break (8.35 ERA in 18.1 innings). He was optioned to Triple-A before the end of spring training but does not intend to stay down for long.
“It’s just consistency, sometimes I can get wild, everyone knows that,” Kahnle said. “Really it’s just working on command and stuff. Hopefully things can get better and I’ll get back up there soon.”
Simon Castro, however, was not as effective. After getting a quick out, Jabari Blash and Shawn O’Malley smacked back-to-back doubles to tie the game in the ninth, forcing Wheeler to have to win it with his shot in the bottom of the frame.
Albuquerque will look to clinch the series against Tacoma on Wednesday at 6:35 p.m. Top prospect Jon Gray (0-1, 11.25 ERA) will make his first start of the season for the Isotopes against Rainiers lefty Roenis Elias (1-0, 7.20).