Burke hurls gem as GJ tops Ogden
Saturday, Devin Burke made the Pioneer League All-Star team.
Sunday, he showed why.
Burke, the undrafted right-hander out of Virginia Tech, needed only 58 pitches to get through six innings in the Grand Junction Rockies’ 9-2 win over Ogden in front of the biggest crowd of the season, 3,610.
“It’s a fantastic honor, but at the same time I have to keep everything in perspective and go out and do my job,” Burke said of the first-team All-Star nod he and center fielder Raimel Tapia received.
He was so efficient, the Rockies staff decided to save some innings for his next start and the playoffs, which begin a week from today.
“It was a pretty simple game plan myself, (catcher Robbie) Perkins and Kibby (pitching coach Ryan Kibler) came up with,” Burke said. “We just went out and executed. Attack the zone, keep the ball down, induce early contact. That was the formula for tonight.
“The lower the pitch count, the more innings the better. I know that’s what Kibby keeps preaching to us and that’s what I went out and tried to do.”
With Burke (5-2) facing no more than four batters in an inning, his teammates responded with 11 hits and flawless defense.
“When your pitcher is throwing a lot of first-pitch strikes it’s easy to play behind him,” said third baseman Ryan McMahon, who went 2 for 4 and drove in five runs. “That definitely helps us defensively. We got back in the dugout and got after it with the bats.”
Burke didn’t strike out a batter, but walked only one. He induced nine ground-ball outs and three flyouts.
Just as impressive was that only one runner reached third base against him.
Ogden catcher Dimitri Papantonopoulos tripled to left-center in the fifth. Terry McClure tried to make a sliding catch on the ball slicing toward the gap, but the ball hit off his leg and bounced past Raimel Tapia, who was running over from center.
Papantonopoulos was stranded when Burke got Zach Babbit to fly out to McClure on the left-field line.
Carlos Estevez relieved Burke in the seventh, and McClure helped him out by throwing out a runner at the plate for the third out to preserve the shutout. Ogden scored one run in the eighth and got a solo home run from Jacob Scavuzzo in the ninth.
One night after being no-hit for eight innings at Idaho Falls, the Rockies wasted no time Sunday, scoring three runs in the first inning. McMahon, who missed three of the four games on the road trip with a slight groin pull, doubled in two runs in the first.
“I think we saved some of our hits from yesterday’s game and brought them tonight,” Grand Junction manager Anthony Sanders said. “Me and Lee (hitting coach Lee Stevens) are both waiting to see when they’re going to come out of one.
“It was big having Ryan back tonight, obviously. A big crowd means a lot, it brings a lot out of these kids.”
McMahon also had the big hit in the Rockies five-run sixth inning, a three-run home run to center.
That chased Ogden starter Victor Araujo (4-3), but with one out, McClure doubled and scored on a throwing error when Perkins beat out a nubber in front of the plate.
Ogden committed three errors in the sixth, and Grand Junction sent 10 men to the plate.
Sunday’s game, coming off their six-run ninth inning Saturday, has McMahon and his teammates confident entering the final week of the regular season.
Grand Junction improved to 30-39, 9-22 in the second half. Ogden (34-35, 14-17) is four games behind Idaho Falls in the second half of the South Division standings with seven games to play.
“We were a little sluggish to start the game (Saturday). In dugout in the ninth, we had a quick little talk and got everybody fired up and we almost tied it back up,” McMahon said.
“Definitely an effort like that shows we shouldn’t lose to anybody. We can compete with every team in this league and hopefully we can compete with them in the playoffs.”