GJ Rockies hit the road after first Sunday win
Sunday did everything it could to keep its curse on the Grand Junction Rockies.
In the top of the second inning, Great Falls catcher Zachary Fisher lined a pitch off the right calf of Rockies starter Eddie Butler.
It’s his push-off leg. “Even worse,” Butler said.
But Butler pitched through the weakness and throbbing pain, first baseman Correlle Prime shook off three strikeouts to get the game-winning single in the bottom of the eighth, and Grand Junction defeated Great Falls 3-2 at Suplizio Field.
Not this time, Sunday.
“I just tried to continue pitching,” said Butler, who threw six innings, allowed seven hits and only one earned run. He struck out six. “I tried to ignore it. I know I was dropping my back half because of that, so I started elevating a few.”
Grand Junction (31-27, 11-10) had been 0 for 7 in Sunday games.
The Rockies not only picked up the Sunday win, they went 6-1 on the homestand and are above .500 for the first time in the second half.
Now it’s on to an 11-game road trip starting Tuesday night with the first game of a four-game series at Helena.
“I think this homestand just showed the character of this ballclub,” Rockies manager Tony Diaz said. “We were behind in a lot of ballgames, but we were able to come back. We have a never-quit attitude. It’s been phenomenal.”
This time, the Rockies did it the other way — they kept a lead, going up 2-0 on a first-inning, two-run single by Wilfredo Rodriguez.
In the fourth inning, Great Falls got on the board when a fly ball to shallow center field dropped among center fielder Max White, right fielder Julian Yan and second baseman Matt Wessinger.
The ball off the bat of Fisher appeared to skip off Wessinger’s glove, scoring Kyle Robinson to cut the Rockies lead to 2-1.
The Rockies nearly had another fielding mistake in the top of the eighth. On an infield fly, Prime followed the ball’s flight from first base and smacked into third baseman Ashley Graeter. Prime, who is 4 inches taller than Graeter, made the catch.
Afterward, Graeter’s cheek appeared, well, grated.
“I knew I had no business going way out there,” Prime said, “but I didn’t hear him. I called four times for the ball. I didn’t see him, and I didn’t want to look down and lose track of the ball, so I ended up hitting him. You’ve got to scream for the ball. When there’s 2,000 fans in the stands it’s definitely going to be loud.”
With three strikeouts and one injured teammate credited to his game statistics, Prime was at the plate in the bottom of the eighth.
David Dahl had led off with a single. Graeter, maybe five minutes after the collision, did more dirty work, dropping a sacrifice bunt to move Dahl to second. Yan advanced the runner to third on a groundout.
After a Rodriguez walk, the man who has been nicknamed “Prime Time” since high school came to the plate. If the name carries him past Rookie ball, his bloop hit to center might be one of the reasons.
It scored Dahl and snapped the Sunday curse.
“Even though I had struck out three times, I felt good at the plate,” Prime said. “That happens from time to time. I’ll probably have more hat-trick days. This time I got my hands out, he jammed me a little bit, and I did just enough to get that hit.”
Pitching the top of the ninth, Scott Oberg picked up his 11th save, striking out two.
With the win, Prime’s resiliency and Butler’s toughness — which included getting out of jams with runners in scoring position — were rewarded.
“(Butler’s) a tremendous competitor,” Diaz said. “It takes mental toughness, and the good ones turn it up a notch with men on third and second. I hope he maintains that because it’s a beautiful thing to have.”