Grand Junction Rockies recap, Aug. 3, 2017
Helena 5, Grand Junction 2
Thursday at Suplizio Field
Grand Junction 18-22, 0-2 second half; Helena 16-23, 1-0.
The key inning
Entering the ninth inning tied 2-2, a flurry of hits cost the Rockies.
Tristen Lutz hit a leadoff single for Helena, then moved to third on a double up the line in left field. Payton Henry ripped a hard ground ball, allowing Grand Junction to catch Lutz between third and home for the first out. Despite the heads-up defense, Jay Feliciano left no doubt with a home run to left field that sailed into the night.
On the mound
Justin Valdespina was visibly frustrated early on, but settled into a solid outing. The right-hander surrendered a two-run home run to KJ Harrison in the top of the first inning and was, at times, irritated with the strike zone.
After raising his hands after a 2-0 call, catcher Javier Guevara motioned for Valdespina to settle down, and the pitcher did just that. Helena didn’t score the rest of the way and Valdespina finished with two strikeouts and two walks.
“Javi does a nice job with that,” Grand Junction manager Frank Gonzales said. “As a young catcher, he really takes control of the game. We want that kind of leadership from him and it’s expected of him to do things like that.”
Hunter Williams was perfect for the next two innings, striking out a pair of Helena hitters before Jefry Valdez stumbled in the ninth.
At the plate
A pair of clutch hits across the sixth and seventh innings allowed Grand Junction to tie the game.
Casey Golden put the Rockies on the board in the sixth with a home run that clanked off the left-field bleachers for his only hit of the night.
Ryan Vilade — two innings after his potential run-scoring hit was caught by a lunging Helena outfielder — broke through in the seventh. Alan Trejo attempted to lay down a leadoff bunt, but was thrown out at first. Brett Stephens quickly grounded out for the second out of the inning.
From there, the Rockies rallied on back-to-back-to-back singles, with Vilade’s driving in Shael Mendoza from third base on a sharp line drive.
The Rockies’ production was top-heavy, with the first three hitters — Mendoza, Pedro Gonzalez and Vilade — collecting seven of Grand Junction’s nine hits. All but Golden’s home run were singles and Gonzalez added a stolen base.
Gonzales said he was happy with many aspects of the game, but the approach to hitting needs to be tweaked.
“I thought we pitched it well enough to win,” Gonzales said. “We gave up some late, but (Valdespina) has been good all year and he was definitely good enough to get the win. He just had the 0-2 slider that stayed up and a guy got a barrel on it. The fielding was there, too, but I wasn’t overly enthused with the offensive approach in terms of how aggressive we were at the plate tonight. We’ll talk about it and get back out here tomorrow.
“I think we need to be more aggressive, but some things need to be adjusted in terms of execution and having a purpose with every swing.”
In the field
The Rockies committed no errors for the 11th time this season.
GJ vs. Helena, 6:40 p.m., Suplizio Field
Starting pitchers: Michael Zimmerman, GJ (0-0, 3.86 ERA) vs. Jayson Rose, HEL (1-3, 6.35 ERA)
TV: Ch. 16 (KGJT)
— Matt Meyer, The Daily Sentinel