Like they've done countless times this season, the Oklahoma City RedHawks manufactured the go-ahead run to post a 3-2 win over Albuquerque on Friday night at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in the opener of a pivotal five-game series.
With 18 games left in the regular season, the RedHawks lead the Isotopes by four games in the American Southern division.
“On a personal pride level you want to win no matter what level you're at,” said RedHawks 29-year-old outfielder Trevor Crowe, one of several players who have shuttled between Oklahoma City and Houston this season. “When you're this close to the big leagues, winning is important.”
Crowe scored the go-ahead run in the eighth after drawing a leadoff walk. He advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Brandon Laird's RBI single to extend the RedHawks' home winning streak to 13.
Both teams collected only three hits.
Albuquerque scored an unearned run off OKC starter David Martinez in the third for a 1-0 lead. RedHawks center fielder George Springer slammed a home run, his 34th of the season, to tie it in the bottom of the third.
The Isotopes went up 2-1 in the sixth with a two-out rally. Following back-to-back walks, Eliezer Alfonzo stroked an RBI single.
The RedHawks, 39-22 at home this season, answered with a two-out rally of their own. Laird walked with two outs and scored on Jonathan Singleton's double.
OKC was 41-39 in late June, four games behind division-leading Round Rock. Over the next six weeks the RedHawks went 27-11, highlighted by a 12-0 homestand, to take the division lead.
“It shows this team has played good baseball regardless who has been here,” Springer said. “You take it one step at a time. We've just got to go out and play our game.”
OKC is in good position to make the playoffs even though several players have been promoted to the majors. Of the 25 players currently on the Houston Astros' roster, 14 played in Oklahoma City this season, 17 the past two seasons.
“It's been a great job by (manager) Tony (DeFrancesco),” Crowe said. “Obviously we have some talent in this locker room. But the roster has fluctuated so much with guys coming and going.
“Tony is trying to help guys get better but also keep them focused. He's done a good job all year, which is why we're in first place.”