Fundamentals help GJ Rox top Missoula

Grand Junction kept the ball down Tuesday night and committed zero errors for the third time this season, topping Missoula 5-2 at Suplizio Field.

“Our defense really starts with our starting pitching, and (Carlos) Polanco did a really good job setting the tone tonight,” Rockies manager Anthony Sanders said.

The Rockies turned one double play, Denzel Richardson threw a laser from right field to throw out a runner at second base, and Polanco caught back-to-back comebackers during the third inning.

Grand Junction second baseman Wesley Jones said the defense spurs offensive focus.

“We started by getting after it in practice, turning double plays, really focusing in,” Jones said. “It transforms your offense when you’re able to do what we did on defense.”

Matt McBride started the scoring in the third inning with an RBI single after back-to-back walks. Then, Hamlet Marte looped a single to right field to score two more runs. The Rockies didn’t score in the fourth inning, then traded runs with the Osprey in the fifth and sixth innings.

Missoula started the top of the fifth with a double, then got an RBI single from Tyler Humphreys. Grand Junction third baseman Kevin Padlo drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom half of the inning to answer for the Rockies.

The Osprey bounced back with an RBI single in the sixth, but McBride’s run-scoring single pushed Grand Junction’s lead to 5-2.

McBride finished with two hits, two RBI and one run. The former second-round pick is on a rehab assignment from Class AAA Colorado Springs. He’s batting .600 with five RBI during three starts in Grand Junction. McBride said his injured right foot feels “fine,” and shaking the rust off his swing has been rewarding.

“I’ve just been trying to have productive at-bats,” McBride said. “I’m happy to be progressing and getting quality at-bats. It’s a great group of guys, and it always feels good to get a win.”

Sanders said McBride’s hot stretch of hitting has helped other players learn the finer points of hitting, and hitting throughout the lineup has been contagious.

Seven Grand Junction players had one hit, and all but one starter reached base safely.

Polanco picked up the win for Grand Junction, spreading five hits and two runs over six innings. He struck out four batters and walked two.

“It starts with his fastball placement,” Sanders said of Polanco. “When that’s working, he’s great. He can keep hitters off balance and show all the other stuff he has.”

Brad Keller, who was originally scheduled to start for Missoula, was scratched in favor of Dallas Newton.

Outside of a rough third inning, Newton was solid. He surrendered five hits with five walks and two strikeouts.

NOTES

Colorado Rockies first-round pick Kyle Freeland will make his professional debut against Missoula today at 7:05 p.m. The lanky left-handed pitcher was taken with the No. 8 overall pick during the 2014 Major League Baseball draft out of the University of Evansville in Indiana. ... After Tuesday’s game, Grand Junction relief pitcher Matt Pierpont was promoted to Class A Asheville. Pierpont was tied for a team best with three saves. He struck out nine batters in 9 2/3 innings with a 2.79 ERA, and he retired the last 16 batters he faced. ... The Rockies announced Tuesday that all Friday night home games will begin at 6:30 p.m. so the postgame fireworks show won’t begin too late.

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