Grand Junction Rockies recap, Aug. 9, 2017
Grand Junction 10-4, Missoula 11-2
Wednesday at Suplizio Field
Grand Junction 23-24, 5-4 second half; Missoula 21-25, 2-6.
To be continued
After rain suspended Tuesday’s game, Grand Junction and Missoula picked up where they left off at the start of the top of the fourth inning. Missoula quickly erased most of the 9-3 lead Grand Junction built the night before, posting runs in the first three innings after the delay. Between the two days, Missoula scored eight consecutive runs to trail 9-8 after six innings.
Grand Junction hung on in the seventh thanks to a heads-up play from first baseman Chad Spanberger. With two outs and runners on first and second, shortstop Ryan Vilade ranged several yards to his right to snag a groundball. Vilade fielded the ball and threw it across the diamond in one motion, but it was wide left and pulled Spanberger off the bag. Spanberger caught the ball and quickly spun, firing to home to beat the potential game-tying run to the plate and stop the bleeding.
Vilade turned around and hit a leadoff triple in the bottom of the frame, eventually scoring on a sacrifice fly from Casey Golden, but his work was undone by a three-run home run from Brandon Leyton, who spun in the dirt as he turned on an inside pitch before launching it over the fence.
To build such a big lead on Tuesday, only to lose it on Wednesday was disappointing for Grand Junction manager Frank Gonzales.
“It’s hard to say what’s going to happen when you come back the next day,” he said. “I thought the momentum was really great yesterday and, honestly, I didn’t think we came out very ready to play for the second part of the game this afternoon. (Starting pitcher Jorge) Oviedo had a tough time getting guys out and that kinda set the stage for a comeback.”
The entire roster shifted for the second game, bringing in many players who, at this point in the season, are no longer regular starters. Even Spanberger, the everyday first baseman, was relieved by middle infielder Todd Czinege in the second game.
The shake-up had great results, with Grand Junction’s offense providing energy throughout the seven-inning contest.
“Those guys are a big reason we’ve had success here as of late,” Gonzales said. “We can get guys in the lineup, move guys in and out. At this point, everybody is responding and playing well.”
The exception was Alan Trejo, who shifted from third base to second in the doubleheader. Trejo played shortstop in college and some second base, but has fit in at third base for Grand Junction. Gonzales added that Trejo could even play first, or in the outfield, should the need arise.
“Honestly, I think he could play anywhere on the field,” Gonzales said. “He’s a pretty versatile guy and it’s part of what he needs to do. Playing every position is something I think he’s comfortable with.”
On the mound
Justin Valdespina, the Rockies’ opening day starter, earned his first win during the second game of the doubleheader. Valdespina has had a string of difficult outings and tough-luck losses, but put together his best performance of the season against Missoula.
The right-hander, taken in the 15th round of last year’s draft, finished with five strikeouts and one walk over six innings.
Valdespina said after missing most of last season with injuries, this year has been a learning experience and he’s happy to get his first professional win.
“It was huge,” Valdespina said. “The team came out and gave me four runs to work with. Got in a little jam in the sixth, but was able to limit the damage and give my team the best opportunity to win tonight.”
At the plate
In the first game, all three of the Rockies’ home runs came on Tuesday. Ramon Marcelino, Trejo and Spanberger each cleared the fence, with Spanberger and Trejo collecting hits on both days of the suspended game. Marcelino’s three-run shot gave him a team-high three RBI as all but two Rockies picked up hits. But after scoring nine runs on Tuesday, the Rockies managed only one run during the remainder of the game Wednesday.
The second game saw the Rockies pick up only six hits, but bursts in the first and fourth innings pushed them past the Osprey. Outfielder Tyler Bates hit his first home run of the season and his two RBI put the Rockies up 4-0. Jeff Moberg and Trejo chipped in doubles, with Moberg’s line drive to center plating two runs in the first inning.
After finishing 5-2 in this homestand, Grand Junction has today off to travel to Helena, Montana, for a three-game series with the Brewers. The Rockies then have a four-game series with Missoula before returning home to face Idaho Falls on Aug. 19.
They said it
“The work is showing up with Justin. He’s the kind of guy who is getting all the information he can, use all the resources he can, and he brought a lot of that into the game tonight.” — Manager Frank Gonzales on Justin Valdespina’s first professional win.
— Matt Meyer, The Daily Sentinel