Butler leads GJ Rockies to victory
Eddie Butler’s past two starts for the Grand Junction Rockies:
Twelve innings pitched, seven hits, 14 strikeouts, one walk. Two wins.
Oh, and zero runs.
“He’s pretty impressive. He did everything you can ask a pitcher to do, everything,” Grand Junction manager Tony Diaz said after the Rockies cruised to a 12-4 win over Billings at Suplizio Field.
Butler, the Rockies’ first-round compensation pick of the 2012 draft, threw 6 2/3 innings of near-perfect baseball, mixing a fastball that topped out at 97 with a wicked changeup that buckled more than one Mustang hitter.
“It’s kind of a little pat on the back to think you can fool a professional hitter like that,” Butler said. “Hopefully it’ll work out the same as I move up the system. Go out and have fun, that’s the main thing; that’s what I’ve been trying to do, go out and have fun.”
He faced only two over the minimum number of batters to improve to 3-1. He gave up a bloop single to left in the third inning (Taylor Wrenn was then caught stealing), walked one man in the sixth and gave up a leadoff infield single off his glove in the seventh.
Butler came back to strike out Seth Mejias-Brean and got Robert Maddox to ground out to second, then gave way to Raul Fernandez. He got a quick fly ball to center to end the inning.
“It was one of those outings you’ve got to tip your hat,” Diaz said. “They had no chance, no chance.”
And with Billings having no chance against Butler and the Rockies’ 10-hit performance, Grand Junction (18-15) moved into a tie for first place in the Pioneer League South. Ogden, which has led from Day 1, lost 5-4 at Helena.
“What, four games left?” Diaz said of the first half. “Just take care of (tonight). That’s all we can do.”
He’ll send Matt Carasiti, who turned 21 on Monday, to the mound tonight against Billings (18-16).
Just as impressive as Butler’s performance was how the Rockies bounced back after losing by 10 runs Sunday afternoon.
“They have done that so far,” Diaz said. “I’m very proud of that and hopefully we continue to show that kind of resiliency and stay pressing, just stay in the moment.”
The Rockies’ Rookie affiliate has not made the Pioneer League playoffs since 2001, its first year in Casper.
“The way we’re playing we can continue to win and hopefully the other teams playing against Ogden will have success too, and we can end up winning the fist half,” Butler said. “It would be great to lock in a spot in the playoffs.”
Grand Junction took advantage of Billings’ pitching problems — five hit batters, seven walks — and five errors to win going away.
Up 3-0, Matt Wessinger hit a solo home run in the fifth and Grand Junction blew it open eight an eight-run eighth inning, sending 13 men to the plate.
The Rockies didn’t have an extra-base hit in the inning, but four singles, three walks and two hit batters, plus a dropped ball behind second, was more than enough.
“We took advantage of their pitchers’ mistakes and their pitching being erratic,” Diaz said. “That’s the way it’s supposed to be if you’re going to have a good ballclub.”
David Dahl went 3 for 5 and drove in two runs and Wessinger was 2 for 3 with the home run. Catcher Chris Cowell was 0 for 1 but was on base four times, walking three times and getting hit once.
He wasn’t the only Rockie who needed a couple of extra ice bags after the game, but the catchers are particularly beat-up.
Jose Briceno, who missed much of the season with a right shoulder impingement, now has a tear in that shoulder, sustained during the last homestand when he threw a runner out at second base. He’s out for the season.
Franmy Pena is out indefinitely with a jammed thumb, leaving only two catchers, Cowell and Wilfredo Rodriguez.
“We may need to get somebody else, maybe from within,” Diaz said. “I think (Drew) Beuerlein might be the name. He’s the guy I requested.”
Beuerlein started the season in Grand Junction, but because of a rash of injuries to catchers throughout the organization, was moved to Class A Asheville, then to Class A Advanced Modesto, and is now in Class A (short season) Tri-City. The Dust Devils have one catcher on the 7-day disabled list, but have three other catchers on the roster besides Beuerlein, who played in his second game with Tri-City on Monday.
Although he requested Beuerlein, Diaz did drop another name to the front office:
“I requested Wilin Rosario,” Diaz said, grinning.