Fireworks: Offense backs Mejias in Rockies’ win over Owlz
Alving Mejias doesn’t waste time when he’s on the mound.
Just ask the Orem Owlz, who for six innings Wednesday were shut down by the fast-working right-hander from Venezuela in the Grand Junction Rockies’ 7-2 win at Suplizio Field in front of the second-largest crowd of the season.
“He was working really fast,” Grand Junction manager Tony Diaz said. “The pace of the game, it lasted two hours and a little bit (2:14), which is pretty much unheard of in this league.”
Mejias was on a 90-pitch count, but only needed 87 to go six innings, allowing three hits, walking one and striking out four.
“I talked to my pitching coach (Ryan Kibler) today and told him I felt my mechanics are in control, I think I can go six innings, seven innings,” said Mejias, who picked up his first win of the season. “(Kibler) said before the game, just get ahead in the count and trust my fastball and that’s what I did.”
His catcher, Wilfredo Rodriguez, was impressed by Mejias’ performance.
“He looked great,” said Rodriguez, who helped the Rockies (8-9) by going 3 for 4 with one double and scoring two runs. “He was throwing down in the zone, throwing to corners.
“The only difference from the start before was he wasn’t getting ahead (last Friday in a 6-5 loss at Ogden). Now he was getting ahead. It was an outstanding outing.”
Mejias kept it simple, spotting his fastball to get ahead in the count and letting his defense work.
He faced 22 batters and only five reached base.
“That happens when you throw the fastball the right way, the defense behind me is going to make good plays,” he said.
Only one base runner for Orem (6-11) got as far as third base against Mejias, and he left Kyle Johnson stranded there in the third inning by inducing a two-out grounder to short.
“I was extremely proud of the way he performed tonight,” Diaz said. “That’s the stuff we’ve been looking for.
“His last outing against Ogden was pretty good and now he was able to take it to the next level. It was simple, he threw strikes, got ahead and worked fast. It was delightful to see him pitch.”
Mejias (1-2) worked his fastball to the inside half of the plate, threw breaking pitches when he needed to and averaged four pitches per batter in the longest stint for any Rockies starter this season.
“We wanted to work his fastball,” Rodriguez said. “If he can command his fastball, we’re gonna be all right. The curveball is important, but the most important thing is to get ahead with fastballs.”
The rest of the bullpen followed the lead of Mejias, with only one hiccup, a two-run home run by Wade Hinkle off Mike Mason in the eighth inning. Hinkle leads the Pioneer League with six home runs.
Diaz called it the best overall pitching performance of the season — two runs on five hits, with a combined seven strikeouts and only one walk.
Offensively, the pitchers had plenty to work with, getting 13 hits, including the third home run in two days by first baseman Ben Waldrip. He singled in a run with a flare to left in the first, then hit a shot over the right-field wall in the third for his sixth straight hit in the homestand.
David Dahl went 3 for 4 and drove in two runs with a base hit and a sacrifice fly, and Juan Ciriaco, hitting in the 9-hole, went 3 for 4 and scored twice.
Rodriguez got in a little extra work in the batting cage, which paid off with his three-hit night.
“I made some adjustments with Coach Drew (Saylor),” he said. “I was having trouble with the low pitch and every pitcher knew that and they were keeping them down. We made an adjustment in the cage and it worked out.”
As fast as Mejias worked, had the fireworks show not been canceled because of the fire ban, it would have either had to wait awhile or start before it was completely dark — the game was over before 9 p.m.
Still, a crowd of 4,706 showed up, the largest since 5,312 attended the home opener.
“I like to pitch like that,” Mejias said of the big crowd. “I’ve thrown in front of 2,000 people, but today I think we got almost 5,000. That made me enjoy the game.”