GJ Rockies get players back for playoffs
The band is back together for one reason.
“We made it this far. Let’s get a ring,” Grand Junction Rockies outfielder Ryan Garvey said last week.
Three players who were promoted to Asheville earlier this season, catcher Jose Briceno, middle infielder Zach Osborne and relief pitcher Jacob Newberry, were sent back to Grand Junction for the final week of the regular season and the Pioneer League playoffs, which begin at 7:15 tonight at Idaho Falls.
When the Tourists’ Class A season ended, Newberry wrote on his Twitter account (@jnewberry32), “It’s been fun Asheville but now back to junction to win a ring!#rockies.”
No, first-round pick Jon Gray wasn’t reassigned to Rookie ball after dominating games at Class A Advanced Modesto. He was shut down for the season before the California League playoffs even began.
Cesar Galvez was sent from Tri-City earlier this month for the stretch run and has been a catalyst not only at the top of the lineup, but a steady glove at second base.
With shortstop Emerson Jimenez sidelined with an arm injury, Osborne provides another good glove up the middle.
Briceno not only gives the Rockies a veteran catcher, but options at designated hitter and first base, plus another big bat in the middle of the order.
Grand Junction manager Anthony Sanders made sure his regulars got days off this past week so they were rested for the playoffs. Those regulars were back in the lineup Sunday at Ogden.
During the regular season, the day’s lineup rarely deviates for pinch-hitters or pinch-runners late in the game, or defensive replacements.
In the final home game of the regular season, though, Sanders had the Rockies in playoff mode. Down 11-10 against Ogden in the bottom of the ninth and Jairo Rosario on second base, Sanders sent speedy Terry McClure in to run with one out.
It paid off, with McClure scoring the tying run on a base hit to right by Galvez. The Rockies won it 12-11 in the 11th inning when Raimel Tapia drew a bases-loaded walk.
That game showed how far the Rockies have come from an 8-21 record in August, putting together a 6-2 September. They won Sunday’s regular-season finale at Ogden, then boarded the bus for Idaho Falls.
The Chukars won only three games in June, but they turned things around in mid-July, winning 13 of 19 games. They clinched their first playoff berth since 2007 the same night the Rockies were outlasting the Raptors.
Grand Junction is only 4-12 against Idaho Falls this season, but it takes two of the top five hitters in the Pioneer League into the playoffs. Tapia leads the league with a .357 batting average and has had a recent power surge, with home runs in back-to-back games at home last week.
Ditto for third baseman Ryan McMahon, who had hit home runs in each of his past four games entering Sunday, giving him a team-high 11, which is fifth in the league.
McMahon raised his batting average to .326, including an impressive .462 in his past 10 games. He has five doubles and 17 RBI in that span to go along with the four home runs.
Throughout the final regular-season homestand, the players and Sanders agreed the second-half struggles seemed to be behind them, and they were back to playing good baseball.
And, they agreed, the ring is the thing.
“There’s nothing that can take that away from you,” Garvey said. “People are going to release you, people can end your career, but no one can take that ring away from you, that Pioneer League championship that we want to win.”