Lezama’s relief effort spurs GJ Rox to victory
Angel Lezama wasn’t expecting to get a call to warm up in the first inning Saturday night.
He sure didn’t think he’d be pressed into service that early, but with Zach Jemiola struggling with his control, the Grand Junction Rockies needed to get Helena’s momentum stopped.
Enter Lezama, with four runs already in and two more runners on base. Thirteen batters and 13 outs later, he had done exactly what the Rockies needed, and they rode that change of momentum to a 9-6 victory at Suplizio Field.
“He has no fear out there,” GJ manager Anthony Sanders said. “I know he doesn’t throw 95 or anything special out there, but he changes speeds and he pitched today. A real positive for him.”
Lezama allowed two singles in 4 1/3 innings, his longest outing of the season, but both of those were erased, one on a line-drive double play by first baseman Jordan Patterson, and another who was caught stealing.
“He just came in and (thought), ‘Get in there and stop the hitting,’ ‘’ said Carlos Estevez, translating for Lezama. “He just wanted to control the game, he had to stop the hitting because that would let us get back in the game.”
Lezama struck out three and turned the game over to Peter Tago with a 5-4 lead.
Grand Junction (27-34, 6-17), despite allowing those four first-inning runs, got right back in the game by scoring three runs of its own in the first.
Cesar Galvez led off with the first of his two bunt singles, Raimel Tapia lined a base hit off starting pitcher Zach Quintana, and after Ryan McMahon’s bid for a home run was caught at the left-field wall, Patterson hit a three-run shot to right-center.
Another bunt single by Galvez, this one bouncing over Quintana’s head, set up the tying run. With one out and Galvez dancing off first, Quintana threw over to first several times in a row, drawing boos from the crowd.
He left the next pitch to Tapia up, and with Galvez, covered in dirt, running, he lashed it into the right-field corner for an RBI double.
“That was the deal, to make him throw, but he was tired of diving and diving and diving,” Estevez said, interpreting for Galvez. “That’s what he was trying to do, to get the focus from the pitcher to him so he would leave a pitch up that (Tapia) could hit really good.”
Tapia went 3 for 5 with a single, double and triple, scored twice and drove in one run.
The Rockies got better situational hitting Saturday than they have recently.
“They responded, but we left a couple out there on third less than two outs a couple of times,” Sanders said. “Come playoff time we’ve got to get those in.”
With Correlle Prime on third after a double and a wild pitch in the third, Dom Nunez slashed a base hit to right with two out to give the Rockies their first lead.
Tago gave up the tying run in the sixth, but Grand Junction picked him up with two runs in the seventh and eighth innings to help him earn the win and improve to 3-5. Tapia reached on an error, took second on a wild pitch and scored on McMahon’s double to the right-field wall.
Robbie Perkins got McMahon home with a two-out single down the right-field line.
Prime singled home another run in the eighth, and he and Patterson teamed up on a double steal to score the final run for a 9-5 lead, with Patterson stealing third, then scoring when Prime beat the high throw to second on the back end.
Dylan Stamey threw the ninth — not a save situation, but one of the closest games the Rockies’ closer has thrown in a few weeks.
“You have to have the same mind-set every time you go out, whether the score’s out of reach or if it’s a save situation,” Stamey said. “I just want to go in and throw strikes, let the defense work and just do my job and make sure we get the outs we need.
“We got down early but everybody stayed together and got back up. We knew we could still win the ballgame. With this offense, we can win any game if we put it together, pitching and offense.”