Osborne lifts Rox to victory
Zach Osborne was tired of sitting and watching.
He missed nearly a week after being hit on the outside of his left knee with a pitch last weekend, so he made the most of his return Friday night to the Grand Junction Rockies’ lineup.
“Luckily I wasn’t out for too long and it wasn’t anything serious,” Osborne said of the bad bruise. He had to go for X-rays after the game in Great Falls, Mont., and said he and trainer John Duff didn’t get back to the hotel until 3:30 a.m. “I was tired of sitting there watching (games). I was just out there having fun and I was hungry to get out there.”
The second baseman not only hit the game-tying home run, he scored the eventual winning run in the Rockies’ 7-4 victory over Idaho Falls.
The Rockies (21-13) can wrap up the first-half title in the Pioneer League South tonight by beating the Chukars (16-18), who were eliminated from the first-half race.
Orem is three games back with four to play, and the Rockies have the tie-breaker on the Owlz, winning five of the eight first-half meetings.
Jon Gray, Colorado’s first-round draft pick, will make his fourth start of the season tonight.
Grand Junction, though, isn’t really worrying about playoff races — the Rockies are just trying to win ballgames.
“We’re trying to do what we’ve always done and that’s go out there and have fun and pay good baseball,” Osborne said. “If we do that, I feel like we have a good shot at clinching.”
They fell behind 4-1 early, with Ryan Garvey’s third-inning home run their only run until the sixth inning, when the Rockies finally got to Jakob Junis.
Dom Nunez led off with a double to right and took third on a balk. Raimel Tapia, who extended his hitting streak to 24 games (three shy of David Dahl’s club record) in the third with a base hit to right, reached on an error, scoring Nunez.
Osborne, who grounded out and struck out in his first two at-bats, drove the ball deep over the left-field wall.
Carlos Esteves, the third pitcher for GJ, recorded his third win of the season with two solid innings, thanks in part to his defense. Jordan Patterson made a diving catch in left field in the seventh, and after allowing a leadoff single in the eighth, Esteves fielded a bunt and threw out the lead runner at second.
A line drive to left was nabbed by Patterson, and after a visit by pitching coach Ryan Kibler, Esteves threw a nasty breaking ball to Zane Evans to get a ground ball to third, ending the Chukars’ last threat.
“In the (eighth) inning he went in and said, ‘Hey, they’re looking for the fastball. Let’s use the breaking ball.’ I said OK, it’s feeling good, let’s do it,” Esteves said.
In the bottom of the eighth, Osborne, all of 5 feet, 6 inches, singled and went to second on Patterson’s sacrifice bunt. Jose Briceno extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a base hit to right and took second on the throw to the plate. Osborne, who has good speed, made the turn at third, but was held up.
“That situation you just have to rely on the coach there,” Osborne said. “The guy in right was playing in and he’s got a great arm. It worked out for us. It’s one of those things; it’s baseball and it happens and luckily it was them and not us.”
After Ryan McMahon grounded out, the Chukars walked Correlle Prime to load the bases. When Emerson Jimenez grounded to first, it looked as if the strategy was going to work.
However, first baseman Cody Stubbs tried to play the ball between hops and bobbled it, allowing Osborne to score the go-ahead run.
Stubbs compounded the fielding error by trying to throw out Jimenez at first, but his throw to pitcher Kyle Bartsch covering the bag was off line and ended up by the Grand Junction dugout.
With the Rockies at the rail urging him on, Briceno scored, and Prime ended up on third. He scored the Rockies’ final run on a wild pitch.
Dylan Stamey walked the first man he faced in the ninth, but erased him on a double play, then got another ground ball out for his fifth save.
Tapia, who broke his favorite bat Thursday night, found another bat that works just fine to keep his hitting streak going.
“He wasn’t happy last night but today he said let’s get some base hits and get the win,” Esteves said, translating for Tapia.
Tapia isn’t seeing many fastballs, but he’s making adjustments — and he’s not thinking about the hitting streak.
“When I get to the plate, just do my job and get the hit,” he said.