GJ Rox speed to win
Anthony Sanders was sprinting down the third-base line, urgently waving Terry McClure around the bases.
When the skipper is sprinting, it’s easy to see why the Grand Junction Rockies run like there’s no tomorrow.
“He’s always teaching us to be aggressive,” McClure said. “Our motto is just run the bases, wreak havoc. I knew he was going to send me.”
The speed at the bottom of the lineup Friday night paid off. In a one-run game, McClure scored from first on a throwing error after Wilson Soriano beat out a bunt single in the eighth inning of Grand Junction’s 8-5 victory over Missoula in Pioneer League baseball at Suplizio Field.
“We keep these guys running until I stop, and Terry did a good job not slowing down and gave me a chance to send him,” Sanders said.
Soriano grounded to the mound but sprinted down the first-base line, and Missoula pitcher Jency Solis’ throw to first sailed wide. Soriano, who was running so hard he nearly lost his balance as he crossed the bag, had to gather himself and make the turn to second.
At the same time, McClure, who reached base on a fielder’s choice, was sprinting to third, trying to catch his manager.
Missoula second baseman Michael Abreu tracked the ball down and threw to the plate, with the crowd of 2,450 screaming in anticipation of the bang-bang play at the plate. Just as catcher Yosbel Gutierrez was turning to make the tag, McClure slid across the plate, just under the tag.
“I knew it was going to be pretty close. I got a peek around third base, and I knew I just had to put my head down and take off, and the umpire made a good call,” McClure said. “That’s a part of base running, knowing where to slide and when to slide. The catcher made a great play, I just happened to come out and be safe.”
Soriano, who appeared to cramp up near second base, pulled into third as the Osprey howled about the call. Manager Audo Vicente came sprinting out of the dugout and got nose-to-nose with home plate umpire Jordan Johnson, who eventually tossed Vicente.
The Rockies (14-11) tried to squeeze Soriano home, but Omar Carrizales fouled off the pitch, then hit a sacrifice fly to get the insurance run home.
“I like the way we came out tonight. We were aggressive on the bases again, put some pressure on them, and they’ve got a really good catcher back there,” Sanders said. “Our guys created some havoc on the bases again.”
McClure hit a clutch, bases-loaded double off the wall in left-center in the second inning, driving in three runs.
The late-game excitement nearly overshadowed Javier Palacios’ solid pitching performance that earned him his first professional victory. Palacios threw five innings, making only a couple of mistakes, which the Osprey hit out of the park, two-run home runs by Gutierrez and Dane McFarland.
“I paid the price for those two mistakes, but I was always focusing on my plan and keep the ball down in the zone, and that’s what was successful tonight,” Palacios said with Hamlet Marte interpreting for him.
Palacios struck out six batters and walked only one, and the Rockies’ bullpen was just as good. Marc Magliaro allowed one run in the sixth that pulled the Osprey within one run, 6-5, but the defense, which made five errors on Thursday, came up with some big plays in the eighth to preserve the lead. Alec Crawford picked up his fourth save of the season.
Sergio Alcantara and Ferney Ozuna singled to lead off the eighth for Missoula (11-14), and Justin Williams launched a double off the left-field wall.
Ozuna took off on contact and reached third base, where Alcantara held up, then was forced into a rundown as Carrizales played the carom perfectly and got the ball in quickly. Alcantara broke for the plate but left skid marks on the base path when he did an about-face and tried to get back to third, where he was tagged out.
With Ozuna on third and the Rockies up only one, they brought the infield in against cleanup hitter Kevin Cron, who hit two home runs Thursday night. He grounded out to Max George, who checked Ozuna back to third and threw Cron out at first, and then threw Trevor Mitsui out at first on another grounder to short.
Palacios retired the first six batters he faced, striking out four in a row, including the side in the second inning.
“I feel happy because it’s my first win of the season,” Palacios said, “but I’m happier because I was throwing my pitches well.”
Former GJ Rockies pitcher Eddie Butler will begin his rehab assignment tonight in Class A Modesto, limited to 60 pitches. The plan is for Butler to then throw July 17 in Colorado Springs, with a 75-80 pitch limit. Depending on how Butler responds, he could throw one more game in Colorado Springs or be called back up to Denver.