Bats break out
GJ Rockies' offense gets back on track in victory
Jon Gray didn’t start his professional career the way he hoped, but his teammates took care of him.
The Grand Junction Rockies offense broke loose for 10 runs on 17 hits to defeat the Billings Mustangs 10-6 in front of 2,793 people Wednesday night at Suplizio Field.
Gray allowed four runs, three earned, on seven hits in three innings. The Rockies trailed 4-1 when he came off the mound after throwing his 40th pitch through the top of the third inning. By the end of the third inning, the Rockies led for good.
Grand Junction (12-8) batted around and scored nine times in the inning.
Leadoff batter Raimel Tapia and cleanup hitter Correlle Prime were in the middle of the offensive breakout. They combined to go 7 for 10 with two home runs, three doubles and eight RBI.
Tapia was 5 for 5 with a home run, three doubles and five RBI to stretch his hitting streak to 11 games.
“The ball looked really big to him tonight,” Grand Junction Rockies Developmental Supervisor Tony Diaz said, translating for Tapia. “He was real aggressive.”
Tapia started the wild inning with a two-run double. Three batters later, Prime got involved with a three-run home run to right. He was 2 for 5.
“We had a hitters meeting before the game,” Prime said. “The last game (Tuesday night), we came out swinging it and backed off. Tonight, we kept the pedal to the metal.
“I think the meeting got us a little bit. (Hitting coach) Lee (Stevens) got into us a little bit. He said, ‘I know you all can swing the bats better than you’re doing. Get out there and let it loose. Don’t try to pull the ball too much, and let it happen.’ “
The Rockies were hitting .297 as a team entering Wednesday’s game. They are now hitting .306 and leading the Pioneer League.
The Mustangs (9-11) made a costly error later in the inning that would’ve left them trailing 8-4. Instead, Tapia made them pay with another two-run double to push the lead to 10-4.
From there, the bullpen, which blew a 4-0 lead over the final four innings of a 6-4 loss to Billings on Tuesday, came through Wednesday.
“Last night we left the ball up in the zone,” Rockies catcher Jose Briceno said. “Tonight, the bullpen was really aggressive down in the zone. That was the big difference.”
Devin Burke (3-0) relieved Gray in the fourth and immediately shut down the Mustangs.
“I was trying to come out and execute pitches down in the zone and throw strikes,” he said. “Jon got hit around a little bit, but that wasn’t on my mind. I was trying to back him up and shut their offense down the best I could.”
Burke limited Billings to one run on two hits in four innings of work for the victory. He had four strikeouts.
“(Manager Anthony Sanders) definitely let us know (last night) wasn’t good enough,” Burke said. “We had to get better executing pitches. I tried the best I can to get the ball down in the zone. I got some balls up, but for the most part I got it down. I was trying to give the team a good chance to win.”
Jordan Mejia and Dylan Stamey each pitched an inning of relief.
Mejia retired the side in the eighth.
The Mustangs scored an unearned run in the ninth.