Grand Junction Rockies recap, Sept. 4, 2017
Grand Junction 7, Ogden 6
Monday at Suplizio Field
Grand Junction 36-35, 18-15 second half, Ogden 44-47, 21-12
The Rockies won when they absolutely had to — one loss against the Raptors in the teams’ three games against one another the next three days will eliminate Grand Junction from playoff contention.
“I don’t think we think about it too much,” Todd Czinege said of the must-win week. “All of us have been playing the game long enough to be in these types of situations, especially the guys who played college ball and went to the College World Series. I didn’t get to do that (for Villanova), but everybody’s played the game long enough to let the situation be itself and focus on the pitch.”
At the plate
Grand Junction took advantage of the hot afternoon game by doing what this club has done all season — hit the ball out of the park. Jeff Moberg hit the Rockies’ 100th home run of the season in the second inning. Casey Golden hit his Pioneer League-leading 19th in the fifth inning, and Chad Spanberger and Czinege went back-to-back to win it in the eighth. Czinege’s home run also gave GJ the lead in the home run race with Ogden. Grand Junction has hit 103 home runs, Ogden 101.
In the field
Despite being short-handed, GJ manager Frank Gonzales just keeps shuffling his lineup to make do. Jeff Moberg, usually a second or third baseman, played shortstop for only the second time this season, with Ryan Vilade and Alan Trejo both injured and Kennard McDowell getting the day off. Third baseman Jeff Bohling is out with a concussion, leaving the Rockies with only five infielders. Grand Junction didn’t get an outfield replacement when Pedro Gonzalez was traded to Texas, and most days four of the five outfielders are in the lineup, one serving as a designated hitter.
Javier Guevara pulled the rare catching assignment on a day game after a night game and responded with a well-called game behind the plate, threw one runner out attempting to steal second and adding a base hit to the Rockies’ 12-hit attack.
“It’s one of those things, these guys have been resilient, we’re playing with 11 guys, I don’t know how many (Ogden) shipped in and I don’t really care. The fact of the matter is, we go to war with these guys every night and win, lose or draw, we leave it on the field,” Gonzales said.
“I call them men at this point, they’re not kids any more. These guys are playing hard, they’re grinding. That’s how we play, what we do and they’ve turned into ballplayers. I’m proud of them.”
Ogden started Trevor Oaks on the mound Sunday, the Dodgers’ No. 14 prospect, sent to Rookie ball from Triple-A Oklahoma City on a rehab assignment. The Raptors have added a handful of players from their High-A, short-season A and Arizona Rookie teams the past few weeks.
The key inning
Grand Junction had three two-run innings, and wasted no time, scoring a pair of runs in the first inning. Spanberger beat the Raptors’ shift by hitting a double over the head of second baseman Gersel Pitre, who was positioned in short right field. The throw to second hit Spanberger in the foot, allowing Golden to score, and Spanberger to reach third. He scored on Czinege’s base hit up the middle.
Golden’s two-run home run in the fifth tied it at 5-5 and Spanberger’s 17th home run hit halfway up the batter’s eye in center in the eighth tied it. Czinege followed with the eventual winner, a shot deep over the left-field wall.
“Chad had the big one, honestly, his keeps us playing,” Czinege said. “I just tried to see the ball up and put a bat on it and ended up working.”
On the mound
Justin Valdespina gave up five runs in five innings, and Shameko Smith threw a perfect sixth inning to keep the Rockies in the game. Connor Heady hit Tommy Doyle’s first pitch for a home run, but after that, Doyle (3-2) allowed only one single in his two innings. Jefry Valdez recorded his ninth save of the season with a pair of strikeouts sandwiched around a fly ball to the warning track in right in the ninth inning.
Around the diamond
Tonight is the home finale for Grand Junction, with the Rockies playing at Ogden on Wednesday and Thursday, then wrapping up the regular season Friday and Saturday at Orem. ... Things got testy in the seventh inning after Heady’s home run when Doyle’s next pitch sailed over the head of Ramon Rodriguez, who ripped off his helmet and took one step toward the mound. Rodriguez, the Raptors’ No. 9 hitter, was hit twice by Valdespina, the second time in the helmet. Both dugouts were warned. Rodriguez grounded out, much to the delight of the sparse crowd on the hot afternoon.
Ogden at Grand Junction, 6:40 p.m., Suplizio Field
Starting pitchers: Jorge Oviedo, GJ (3-2, 5.27 ERA) vs. Osiris Ramirez, OG (2-4, 6.80)
TV: Ch. 16 (KGJT)
They said it
“Let the ice melt over there. I could care less.” — Frank Gonzales, on preventing Ogden from clinching a playoff spot.
— Patti Arnold, The Daily Sentinel