Strong pitching performance helps GJ Rockies snap skid

Raimel Tapia of the Grand Junction Rockies slides into second base Wednesday night for the steal ahead of the throw to Missoula’s Jake Miller in the third inning of the Rockies’ 8-4 victory at Suplizio Field.

It all starts with pitching.

Wednesday night, the pitching for the Grand Junction Rockies was very good, arguably the best overall pitching performance of the second half.

Defense and hitting followed suit, and by the end of it, the Rockies were smiling after an 8-4 victory over the Missoula Osprey, ending a five-game losing streak.

Grand Junction (26-32 5-15) had lost five in a row at Suplizio Field, but Wednesday everything came together, starting with Devin Burke.

“We get a quality start out of Burke, no surprise in my opinion on that one right there,” GJ manager Anthony Sanders said. “He gives us a quality start and we change things up bringing in (Peter) Tago and (Scott) Firth. We get some of that every night, we’ll be back on track again.”

Burke gave up four runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings, not his best outing, but he minimized the damage each inning. He finished with eight strikeouts and walked only one.

“Burkey went out there and didn’t have his best stuff, but he battled like I knew he would,” said Firth, who retired all seven batters he faced through the middle innings to get the win. “I was glad I got to come in there and give the team a chance to win, hold them where they were and give our offense a chance to get us back on top.”

Firth got a ground ball with two out and runners at the corners to end the fifth inning, then retired the side in order in the sixth and seventh.

He gave way to Tago, who was moved to the bullpen last week. Tago gave up two singles, but a double play erased the first. After Jake Miller’s sinking liner fell just in front of a diving Raimel Tapia in center, a heads-up defensive play ended the inning.

Tapia kept the ball in front of him, and shortstop Emerson Jimenez picked it up and fired to Ryan McMahon at third to get Anderso Bolivar, who tried to go from first to third on the play.

Sanders is hoping the move to the bullpen will help Tago, a former first-round draft pick, find his confidence again.

“Every move we make here is to try to put the kids in the best situation to succeed,” he said. “At this point with Tago, start over again. Get in there, throw some short innings, throw some strikes and get his confidence back up. It’s something he might like.

“You’ve got a guy like Tago in the pen with his stuff, he gives you a chance.”

And with the pitching coming through, the balls the Rockies have hit right at people the past couple of weeks found green grass.

Only leadoff man Cesar Galvez didn’t get at least one hit in the Rockies’ 13-hit attack. The big inning was the fifth, with McMahon getting it going with a solo home run into the left-field bleachers.

Seven more men came to the plate after that, with Jairo Rosario’s base hit and subsequent outfield error scoring two runs. He took third on a base hit by Jimenez and scored when Ryan Garvey grounded into a double play.

“All our pitchers tonight did great,” McMahon said. “We had that one big inning and had a lot of momentum. The rest is baseball. Things started falling our way and that always feels good.”

The five-run inning turned a 4-2 deficit into a 7-4 lead, and they added another run in the sixth. Tapia doubled and scored on a base hit by Correlle Prime, who went 3 for 4 and scored one run in his first game back from an ankle sprain.

Prime’s first two hits didn’t leave the infield, testing his left ankle, which he sprained during the first game of the recent road trip.

“I would hit a little dinker right by the plate,” he said. “Yeah, let’s test it right here.”

Closer Dylan Stamey wrapped up a solid pitching night by striking out two of the four men he faced in the ninth.

“That’s what baseball is supposed to look like,” Firth said with a smile. “That was a good overall team performance. A lot of hits, a lot of runs, good pitching and good defense. If we can bring that every day, things will be looking up. String a couple of wins together here and we’ll be in good shape.”

Notes: Home plate umpire Cameron Westover left the game in the middle of the third inning after becoming dizzy. He spoke with Grand Junction trainer John Duff, then went to the clubhouse. Field umpire Ryan Doherty moved behind home plate and worked the remainder of the game by himself.


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