Garcia goes gonzo
Slugger hits two HRs to lift GJ Rox
Henry Garcia had his own personal Home Run Derby on Monday night.
The Grand Junction Rockies’ big first baseman had struggled at the plate since coming back from being hit in the left hand with a pitch June 23 and missing a week. He had seven hits in his past seven games and didn’t look comfortable at the plate.
Monday, though, Suplizio Field was his launching pad. Garcia, who said his hand is feeling much better, went 3 for 5 with two home runs in Grand Junction’s 13-5 Pioneer League victory over Helena.
“He’s back,” Grand Junction manager Anthony Sanders said. “Sometimes you’ve got to take a couple of steps backwards to start seeing success. He’s done a really good job. He’s been working really hard behind the scenes with Lee (Sanders, the Rockies’ hitting coach), and it showed tonight. You could tell every at-bat tonight, he made it count.”
Even when Garcia didn’t get a hit, he had a productive at-bat, driving in at least one run in every plate appearance. His six RBI are the most for any Rockies player in a game this season.
“I try to do that all the time. Stay positive is the important thing. Stay positive in your mind and do the best you can,” Garcia said through teammate Hamlet Marte.
Grand Junction (16-12) scored in every inning except the seventh, which gave starting pitcher Kyle Freeland a boost after he gave up one run in the first.
“It’s great, especially giving up one in the first and coming in and them scoring two for me,” Freeland said. “It was great because I’m pitching with a lead, and it gives me momentum and turns the game around for us, allows me to go out and get a shut-down inning, and we can go back out and hit.”
Freeland threw three innings, 39 pitches, 24 for strikes. He said he didn’t feel as sharp early as he did in his debut, but he retired seven of the final eight men he faced, striking out two in the third inning around a broken-bat groundout.
“The first inning I didn’t hit my groove right away,” he said. “I had to work around some things, some adversity in the first, but after that I felt I got into my groove and was able to cruise through those next two innings.
“You’ll always go through adversity in this game. It’s a game of failure. You’ve got to learn on the fly, too, and if you do that, you’ll have a lot of success.”
Craig Schlitter recorded his first win of the season with three scoreless middle innings, allowing only a fifth-inning double to the corner in left by Gregory Munoz, who was thrown out by Yonathan Daza trying to stretch it into a triple.
Helena scored four runs in the seventh off Cristian Quintin, who faced only four batters, all of whom got a hit, including back-to-back home runs, before Yoely Bello relieved him and got the Rockies out of the inning.
The night, though, belonged to Garcia and the Rockies’ speed demons. Garcia hit an RBI single over third base in the first inning, then Omar Carrizales wowed the fans with his daring base running in the second.
He beat out an infield single, then stole second base. On the next pitch, he stole third, and when the next pitch bounced in the dirt, he scampered home to make it 3-1.
Garcia hit a two-out solo home run to left in the third inning, and back-to-back triples by Kevin Padlo and Denzel Richardson got Grand Junction going in the fourth. Padlo scored on a wild pitch, and Richardson came home when Helena catcher Greg McCall’s snap throw to third sailed down the left-field line.
Daza showed why you run everything out in the fifth, lining a high shot to third, which Helena’s Tucker Neuhaus leaped to get a glove on, but he dropped the ball. Daza sped down the line and beat Tucker’s throw, which sailed past first, allowing him to get to second.
He stole third and came home on Garcia’s groundout. Daza went 3 for 4 and scored three runs.
“We had a lot of quality at-bats. Kids were grinding them out,” Sanders said of the Rockies’ 13 hits. “They have a really good focus right now.”
A sacrifice fly in the sixth gave Garcia four RBI for the night, and he wasn’t done. After Forrest Wall singled, stole second and came home on a throwing error in the eighth, Garcia launched a two-run shot into the left-field bleachers, his third home run of the season.
Seriously, Henry, didn’t you know it was Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby night?
“Noooo,” he said, laughing.