GJ Rockies fall to Orem in sharp wind
For four innings Sunday, the flag in center field at Suplizio Field barely moved. But when the clouds rolled in, the wind started whipping — straight in from center.
Not a great day to hit. Orem scored five runs in the first four innings and withstood a bases-loaded threat in the ninth inning for a 7-3 victory over Grand Junction on the first day of the second half of the Pioneer League season.
“We needed that wind to start blowing the other way in that last inning,” Grand Junction manager Anthony Sanders said. “The guys battled back. That’s a tough guy (side-armer Jacob Kopra) for these young guys to be facing. Anyone with different arm angles, but our two young kids got knocks off him and a nice bunt and we got something started.”
Kevin Padlo opened the bottom of the ninth with a base hit up the middle and Max George singled over third base. Wilson Soriano beat out a bunt to load the bases, but Omar Carrizales was called out on strikes, Luis Jean flied out to right and Yonathan Daza grounded out.
“Those guys, it’s pretty hard to hit those guys,” catcher Hamlet Marte said. “You never know what they’re going to throw. They throw everything different.”
Grand Junction (23-16, 0-1) couldn’t get much going after scoring three runs in the first inning off starter Justin Anderson.
Carrizales laced a double down the left-field line and Jean beat out a push bunt down the first-base line. Daza’s double to left-center scored Carrizales and Jean came home on the fourth straight hit of the inning, a single by Henry Garcia. That put runners at the corners, and the Rockies did what they do — Garcia took off on a delayed steal of second.
The throw was cut off in front of the bag by shortstop Wendell Soto, but his throw to the plate wasn’t in time to get the speedy Daza, who scored on the back end of the double steal.
“Henry starting it with the delay and Daza doing a good job reading the throw, it worked out,” Sanders said. “I don’t think there’s any surprise for anybody who comes in here, they better be on their toes. They know we’re going to take advantage of it on the base paths.”
Orem (25-14, 1-0) stole four bases, three against Grand Junction starter Sam Howard, who took the loss, allowing five runs on eight hits in his four innings.
The Rockies stranded nine and left the bases loaded in the fourth inning after Marte doubled off the wall in left. Dom Nunez was robbed of a base hit when second baseman Andrew Daniel speared a low line drive and doubled Marte off second.
Padlo reached on an error, George singled and Soriano walked to load the bases, but he was forced out on a grounder by Carrizales.
Orem broke a 3-3 tie on a no-doubt home run to left by Wade Wass to lead off the fourth and added another run in the inning. Single runs in the eighth and ninth provided too much of a deficit for the Rockies to overcome.
Although Grand Junction’s offense couldn’t come through despite a dozen hits, the defense provided plenty of highlights, turning three double plays. The play of the game came in the eighth.
With runners at first and second, Raul Linares hit a soft liner over second base. Jean hustled into shallow center field and made an impressive backhanded catch, whirled and fired an off-balance throw to first. Garcia made a nice pickup of the short-hop throw and doubled off Michael Strentz.
“On the defensive end, a lot of nice plays,” Sanders said. “That play Jean made was probably one of the better ones we’ve seen.”
The Rockies finished the first half one game behind Orem, and are one game behind Orem and Ogden to start the second half, but Sanders likes what he sees from his club, especially since now the starting pitchers are on higher pitch limits.
“Hopefully the second half will be better than the first and we keep building on that,” Sanders said. “Our starting pitching is starting to lengthen themselves out and we’ll start seeing their pitch counts go up and take us deeper in ballgames.”
Short hops: Outfielder Denzel Richardson was promoted to Class A-Short Season Tri-City (Washington) before Sunday’s game. The 20-year-old from Phillipsburg, St. Maarten, hit .213 in 22 games for the Rockies with six doubles, two triples and seven RBI. Grand Junction had seven outfielders on the roster and Tri-City had only four before the move. … George extended his hitting streak to 10 consecutive games with a base hit in the second inning. The shortstop went 3 for 4 and is hitting .346.
DENVER — When Nolan Arenado flashed some impressive glove work to help get out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth it looked like the Colorado Rockies’ day.
Five pitches into the eighth, it turned out to be Pittsburgh’s afternoon.
Josh Harrison had four hits, including a tiebreaking homer, to help the Pirates beat Colorado 7-5 on Sunday.
Gregory Polanco and Travis Snider also went deep for the Pirates, who avoided being swept in Colorado for the second straight season.
The loss denied the Rockies their first winning homestand in two months.
“If we won today we would have gone 4-2 on the homestand but it is what it is,” Arenado said. “We were able to split and we won the series.”
Arenado and Brandon Barnes homered and Wilin Rosario reached base four times for the Rockies, who were going for their first home sweep since taking two from Texas in early May.
Harrison ended that hope when he homered on reliever Rex Brothers’ first pitch of the eighth to break a tie, and Polanco followed with his fifth of the season to make it 7-5.
After Rockies pitchers held the Pirates to two runs in the first two games Brothers (3-5) allowed two in a matter of moments to add to his frustrating season. He has allowed six home runs in 42 innings after giving up five in 2013.
“I can’t explain it, to be honest,” he said. “The way we’ve played the last couple of days and to go out there and do that today, I really can’t put it into words.”
Tony Watson (7-1) gave up a run in two innings of relief to get the win and Mark Melancon worked the ninth for his 19th save.
Harrison also had helped give the Pirates a 5-4 lead. In the sixth he swiped second but was caught in a rundown when he slid past the bag. He survived to reach third — giving him two stolen bases on the play — and scored on a pinch-hit double by Ike Davis to make it 5-4.
“We’ve got to get an out there,” manager Walt Weiss said. “I look at a rundown as a free out. Harrison’s one of the tougher guys to put away in a rundown but we’ve got to get the out there. It was a good play.”
Snider had tied the game with a pinch-hit, two-run homer earlier in the inning.
Arenado tied it 5-5 with a homer in the seventh, his ninth of the year and second in as many games before Harrison and Polanco struck in the eighth.
“The back-to-back homers hurt us but we felt good all the way to the ninth inning,” Arenado said. “Melancon came in and did what he did all year. We weren’t able to finish off there.”
Pittsburgh starter Edison Volquez has struggled against Colorado and at Coors Field. He entered Sunday 3-8 with a 7.80 ERA in 13 career starts against the Rockies. The numbers are even worse in Denver where he was 1-5 with a 8.45 ERA in eight career starts.
He didn’t improve those statistics Sunday. He allowed an RBI single to DJ LeMahieu in the second inning and a two-run homer to Barnes as part of a three-run fourth inning, although only one of the runs was earned.