GJ Rockies’ bats silenced by Great Falls’ pitchers

Grand Junction Rockies reliever Billy Waltrip delivers a pitch Saturday during the eighth inning of the Rockies’ 5-0 loss to Great Falls at Suplizio Field. Waltrip allowed two hits and struck out two in his 1 1/3 innings of work.

Normally for the Grand Junction Rockies, getting the leadoff man on base means runs will be scored.

Saturday night was not normal.

The Rockies’ leadoff man reached base in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings. Only one got as far as third base in Grand Junction’s 5-0 loss to Great Falls. It was the first time Grand Junction (14-9) has been shut out this season. The Rockies still have a one-game lead on Ogden in the Pioneer League South.

“We weren’t focused today. We didn’t focus like we do pretty much every day,” said right fielder Ryan Garvey, who had half of the Rockies’ hits, going 3 for 4.

Entering Saturday’s game, the Rockies led the Pioneer League in scoring, averaging 7.3 runs per game. They couldn’t do anything against the Voyagers’ pitchers, namely starter Todd Kibby, who struck out six, two fewer than he had in his previous four starts for Great Falls (12-11), which is tied with Helena atop the Pioneer League North.

The left-hander had the Rockies off balance in his six innings of work.

“That happens a lot, in my opinion, in lower levels. You get a soft-throwing lefty up there, he’s mixing up pitches on us and throws a lot of these young kids off, and I think we were a victim of that tonight,” Grand Junction manager Anthony Sanders said. “He just kept us off balance tonight.”

A short, heavy rainstorm about noon on Saturday flooded parts of the stadium, with water running in from North Avenue and through the gate down the right-field line, said Eddie Mort, the stadium supervisor.

The grounds crew used sump pumps to get several inches of standing water off the field, but the teams couldn’t take batting practice.

“I got here earlier, and it was under puddles. It just came out of nowhere,” Sanders said.

The Rockies were less than aggressive at the plate all night, completely out of character.

“We were missing the fastballs that were in the zone; we can’t miss those,” Garvey said. “We’re going to jump on those fastballs (today), and we won’t miss.”

Raimel Tapia extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a leadoff single in the fourth, the first base runner to reach against Kibby, but he was stranded at second.

Garvey led off the fifth with an infield single and took second on a throwing error, but he was thrown out at third when Jairo Rosario grounded to short.

“He threw a great game, a perfect game in my eyes,” Garvey said of Kibby. “He spotted up his pitches, threw his off-speed for strikes and spotted up his fastball. That’s what you want in a pitcher, and that’s what he did today. He had a great day, and we just couldn’t adjust to what he was throwing.”

The Rockies’ Terry McClure singled and was bunted to second in the sixth, but he was doubled off second when Zach Osborne hit a fly ball to shallow center on a hit and run.

“Something that we’ve been preaching all the time and we’ve been OK with it this year, except for tonight, is situational hitting,” Sanders said. “Little things and that game could have been a completely different score early on, had we done some little things.”

Jose Briceno was the only Rockies’ base runner to reach third base, beating out an infield hit and advancing to second on a throwing error in the seventh. With one out, Garvey singled to left, sending Briceno to third, but they, too, were stranded.

Grand Junction starter Peter Tago (1-2) showed progress despite taking the loss. Two of the three men he walked in 5 1/3 innings ended up scoring, the first coming in on one of Grand Junction’s three errors.

“Some positives out of him tonight,” Sanders said of the Rockies’ 2010 first-round pick. “He went further and threw a lot of ground balls.”

The only ball hit out of the infield through the first five innings against Tago was Jacob Morris’ home run in the second. Tago ran out of steam in the sixth, giving up two runs and leaving with the bases loaded and one out.

Reliever Manuel Montilla got out of the jam with two fly balls to left.

Shortstop Emerson Jimenez left the game in the fifth inning. Sanders said he hadn’t talked to the trainer right after the game, but suspected a sore leg, possibly from Jimenez trying to beat out a ball hit in the hole in the third inning, lunging toward first base.

Third baseman Ryan McMahon, who tweaked his right knee running out a ground ball Thursday, could be back in the lineup soon, Sanders said.

“Hopefully the season doesn’t start going that way,” Sanders said of the injuries. “That’s why we keep everybody playing and mixing things up, so everybody stays ready to go.”


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