Go-to pitch makes ‘em split

Split-finger fastball helps Carasiti shut down Osprey

Matthew Carasiti was dominant Thursday night for Grand Junction, allowing only three hits in seven innings of the Rockies’ 3-1 victory over Missoula at Suplizio Field. Carasiti retired the Osprey in order in five of his seven innings.

Ben Waldrip, who hit a solo home run in the second inning, waits for the throw as Missoula’s Danny Pulfer dives back to the first-base bag in the Rockies’ 3-1 victory Thursday night at Suplizio Field.

The splitter is back in Matt Carasiti’s repertoire.

And the return of the split-finger fastball has given the Grand Junction Rockies’ sixth-round draft pick all the confidence he needed.

“In college I wasn’t allowed to throw my splitter because I was trying to develop a slider,” Carasiti said Thursday night after throwing seven shutout innings in the Rockies’ 3-1 win over Missoula at Suplizio Field.

“The past couple of games I’ve really thrown my splitter because that’s been my go-to pitch my whole life. That as an out pitch really helps me get ground balls.”

And the defense was grateful for those ground balls, turning two stellar double plays behind him.

Carasiti (2-1) allowed only three hits, struck out three and walked two.

The secret to pitching deep into games isn’t a secret at all:

“You’ve gotta keep the pitch count down,” Carasiti said. “Most of us are on pitch counts, 75 to 90 pitches. A couple of quick innings really help you go deep in the game.”

He retired the side in order in the first, second, fourth, sixth and seventh innings, getting a little help from the defense on some of those.

“Oh, incredible,” Carasiti said of the defense, which turned two big-time double plays and nearly had a third. “(Juan) Ciriaco’s? That was a huge jam. That could have been the game right there.

“They could have come back and had a big inning, but you get that ground ball and hold your breath, and he makes a crazy play and you get out of it. It really brings the momentum in the dugout. It kept me going.”

Ciriaco’s play in the fifth inning saved a run in a 3-0 game, getting Carasiti out of his only real jam.

With one out, Danny Pulfer singled down the right-field line and took second on a wild pitch. Rudy Flores walked, and Ty Linton made a bid for a base hit to the right side. Ciriaco, though, picked the ball with the very tip of his glove, spun and threw to Jason Stolz at second, who relayed to first for the inning-ending double play.

“At this level you see the flashes,” Grand Junction manager Tony Diaz said of the defense. “It’s consistency. If they’re consistent enough, they’ll be in the big leagues.

“The one on the ground ball that Stolz made up the middle earlier and the Ciriaco one to his left with Stolz ... those are web gems. Those guys are capable of doing that.”

In the first inning, after Evan Marzilli reached on an infield single with one out, Jake Lamb grounded the ball up the middle. Stolz, though, speared the grounder, stepped on second, leaping over Marzilli and doing the splits to avoid contact, and threw Lamb out at first to end that inning.

All of the Rockies’ offense came in the first four innings. David Dahl singled with one out in the first, moved up on a ground ball and scored on Jeff Popick’s base hit up the middle. The single extended Popick’s hitting streak to eight games.

Ben Waldrip hit a solo home run to right, his sixth of the season, in the second inning, and Popick was hit by a pitch and scored on a two-out error on a ground ball by Stolz in the fourth.

Grand Junction (15-15) picked up a game on Ogden in the South Division of the Pioneer League after the Raptors lost 10-7 to Great Falls (Mont.) in the first game of a series featuring the two division leaders. The Rockies made the most of their four hits; Missoula had seven.

The Osprey (14-16) picked up their only run in the eighth off reliever Raul Fernandez. Scott Oberg helped him get out of the inning and pitched the ninth for his fifth save of the season.

“We’ve been playing well lately, and like I told the guys, everything starts and ends with the pitching,” Diaz said. “When you have outings like Matt’s tonight and (Eddie) Butler had at Billings, that’s as simple as it gets. That’s the way it’s supposed to be played.

“You pitch well and play good defense, we’ll be in ballgames. You don’t have to hit that much.”


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