8th wonders

Garvey's sac fly, Rodriguez's double lift Rockies to win

Grand Junction’s Juan Ciriaco bunts for a single Saturday in the third inning of the Rockies’ 7-5 victory over Missoula at Suplizio Field.

Todd Helton connects for a single Saturday in the third inning of the Grand Junction Rockies’ 7-5 victory over Missoula. Helton went 3 for 5 with two RBI in his two-game rehab stint in Grand Junction.



A collision at first base elevated Tony Diaz’s heart rate a little bit Saturday night.

After all, Todd Helton was in town on a rehab assignment, and another injury to the Colorado Rockies’ first baseman was not in the plans.

“He got out of the way pretty quickly,” Diaz said.

A ball hit in the hole between first and second was fielded in the fourth inning by Juan Ciriaco, who made an off-balance throw to first. Helton came off the bag to the right-field side to catch the throw and Missoula’s Evan Marzilli collided with Helton as he ran through the bag.

Marzilli appeared startled and quickly put both hands up to try to make sure he didn’t knock down Helton, who played two games in Grand Junction as he recovers from a strained right hip.

Helton went to the mound after the play as the Rockies changed pitchers, and when he went back to first, he was smiling at Marzilli and playfully threw a downward punch.

After a sharp line drive to left in the fifth inning, Helton, who had planned to play seven innings, took himself out of the game.

“He was a little sore today,” Diaz said. “I’m glad he said that because sometimes they don’t.”

Helton went 1 for 3 Saturday, driving in a run with a third-inning single to left. He ran hard out of the box on the ball, which was slicing toward the line, and took a big turn at first base. He finished the rehab stint 3 for 5 with one walk and two RBI.

Just about everybody thought the ball was out of the park.

And although Ryan Garvey would surely love a game-winning grand slam, he’ll take the sacrifice fly to get the tying run home.

“That was my goal,” Garvey said after his fly ball to deep center Saturday night got the tying run home in the eighth inning in the Grand Junction Rockies’ 7-5 win over Missoula. “I lowered my hands and got it out there. Fortunately he threw me a slider, and I got out there. I’ll take the sac fly.”

Just after the wind held up Garvey’s deep line drive just enough to allow Breland Almadova to make a great running catch on the warning track, Wilfredo Rodriguez tested the Missoula center fielder again.

This time, Almadova couldn’t quite catch up to the ball. Rodriguez wheeled into second base with a two-run double, then looked to the Grand Junction Rockies’ dugout, fists clinched in celebration.

“I want to win every game, and I play every game like it’s a championship,” Rodriguez said. “I was excited about contributing to the win tonight. The ball Garvey hit, I was jumping up because I thought it was a grand slam. Then I hit it very hard. A double, two RBI, that’s what my team needed. That works.”

The Rockies (17-15) won their fourth straight game and picked up a game on Ogden, which dropped a 6-5 decision to Great Falls. Grand Junction is now one game back in the Pioneer League South.

The three-run eighth inning gave Jordan Mejia his first win. Scott Oberg’s sixth save came after a perfect ninth inning as the bullpen continues to come up with clutch performances.

“I just wanted to throw strikes and get the momentum on my team’s side,” Mejia said. “I couldn’t ask for more. I just tried to win the pitch and knew if I won the pitch I could win the inning.”

Mejia relieved Kyle Roliard after back-to-back walks in the seventh inning. He struck out the first man he faced, then walked the bases loaded before getting Evan Marzilli to ground right back to the mound.

A 1-2-3 double play got the Rockies out of the jam.

“Critical,” Grand Junction manager Tony Diaz said. “We work on those things quite a bit in early work, and we always challenge them to heightened awareness. They show up in situations like that. If you execute those plays, you put yourself in a good position. If you throw it away, you don’t know what will happen. It boils down to doing the little things right, and we did that for the most part tonight.”

Walks and errors set up the Rockies’ big inning. Ben Waldrip, who replaced Todd Helton after the Colorado Rockies’ first baseman lined out in the fifth inning, his final appearance in his rehab assignment, drew a leadoff walk. Jeff Popick’s sacrifice bunt was thrown away, and Ashley Graeter struck out.

Matt Wessinger was intentionally walked, setting up Garvey’s grand slam bid.

“It was close,” Garvey said with a slight grin. “Maybe a little less wind and it would have been out. He fed me a slider, what they’d been throwing me all game, and I finally made an adjustment. I got the bat out there, and it was going. Unfortunately the wind was blowing in.”

Almadova took off on a dead sprint when Garvey connected, and the wind kept it in the park. It gave Waldrip plenty of time to score, and Popick and Wessinger took off on contact. Both had to retreat when Almadova came up with the ball.

Missoula manager Andy Green insisted Wessinger passed Popick as they were retracing their steps, but he didn’t win that argument. Rodriguez then delivered his winning double.

Back-to-back towering shots to left field in the fifth inning pulled Missoula within one run, 4-3. Yosbel Gutierrez hit a sacrifice fly to left to get one run home, and Almadova homered high over the double-deck wall one batter later. Danny Pulfer singled home a pair of runs in the sixth for a 5-4 lead. Missoula (14-18) had 11 hits to Grand Junction’s eight.

Diaz likes the balance he’s seeing from his club, offensively and on the mound.

“They’ve done a nice job. They’re picking each other up,” Diaz said of the bullpen. “The way PJ (Patrick Johnson) came in and bailed (Alving Mejias) and then Mejia bailed Roliard, that’s nice to see. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. They have to execute, and they have done that the last couple of weeks.”

Garvey ended up 0 for 3, but moved runners on his first two groundouts, then came up with the big sacrifice.

“It’s a team sport. Today was a great example of how we play,” Garvey said. “We were down and came back and scored some runs and came out on top. You have those games (without a hit), and that’s baseball. I’m thankful I had a game like today and do my part to help my team win.”


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