HERE COMES THE BOOM
GJ Rockies pummel Ogden on 3-HR night
Alex Balog got himself in a jam Monday night.
Then the Colorado Rockies’ second-round draft pick got tough.
“He pitched tonight,” Grand Junction manager Anthony Sanders said after the Rockies’ 8-4 victory over Ogden. “He didn’t just go out and throw. He went out and was a professional.”
Balog gave up a single to lead off the sixth inning, then hit the next two batters.
Pitching coach Ryan Kibler came out and Balog did what he was told — sort of.
“He told me to just calm down, what pitch you want to throw here?” Balog said. “Fastball away, that sounds good. He said to just hit my spots and get the ground-ball double play.”
Instead, Balog struck out the next three batters.
“Yeah, it worked out,” Balog said with a grin.
He did give up one run in that inning, throwing a wild pitch — a strike in the dirt that Jairo Rosario couldn’t corral.
Against the final batter he faced, Balog blew a 93-mph fastball by Jacob Scavuzzo.
“I kinda just saw the sign and said, ‘Here it comes,’ ‘’ said Balog, who recorded his first professional win. “I just knew I wanted it more than he did.”
With Balog keeping the Raptors (34-36, 14-18) in check on eight hits and five strikeouts through his six innings, the Rockies (31-39, 10-22) put up six runs in the second inning, sending 10 to the plate.
Correlle Prime led off with a solo home run to right and Raimel Tapia added a three-run shot to right-center.
“The first at-bat the pitcher got me late, I was late on the fastball,” Tapia said through Carlos Estevez. “The second at-bat I thought to get my hands out there. I just got my hands through when I saw the fastball.”
Fastballs light up Tapia’s eyes, because the leading hitter in the Pioneer League (.355) doesn’t see many.
“Breaking ball, breaking ball, breaking ball,” he said, laughing.
Ryan McMahon went 3 for 4, boosting his batting average to .330. He doubled home a run in the fifth and hit a solo home run to center in the seventh.
In winning their second straight game, the Rockies again played error-free baseball, got solid pitching and hit up and down the lineup. All but one batter recorded at least one hit, with Dom Nunez also going 3 for 4, in their 15-hit attack.
In the Raptors’ three-run third inning, Ryan Garvey threw a strike to Nunez at short on a ball hit down the right-field line. Nunez relayed to McMahon to get Kyle Farmer trying to stretch the double into a triple.
The defense also turned two double plays behind Balog.
Sanders, a big-picture kind of guy, has said throughout the second-half struggles that his team would come around, it was a matter of being patient.
Monday, he agreed that it seems he’s found his ballclub again.
“It’s looking that way, huh? The kids are starting to show up,” Sanders said. “They know what’s at stake coming up pretty soon. It’s not how we start, it’s how we finish.”
Estevez and Tapia both grinned when talking about the playoffs.
“We want that ring,” Estevez said.
“We talk about (the playoffs) and that we realize we have to play much better than we were since the second half started,” Tapia said. “We have to get the bats back and the pitching. We’ll be ready for the playoffs.”
Balog said Devin Burke’s outing Sunday set the tone for the pitching staff and everything is coming together at the right time.
“We’re starting to swing the bats pretty good and we’re starting to make pretty good pitches,” Balog said. “The start Burke had (Sunday), he was awesome. I think we’re finally finding ourselves. It kind of disappeared, but it’s coming back.”
Sanders defined the “it:”
“They’ve got their swag back, as they would say.”
Notes: The Rockies will auction off a framed jersey signed by the entire team tonight. The winning bid, which is tax deductible, will be donated to Challenger Baseball, a program that allows special needs children to play baseball. ... The Rockies have added pitcher Logan Norris from Tri-City to the roster, and expect to add three players promoted to Asheville earlier this summer. Catcher Jose Briceno, second baseman Zach Osborne and relief pitcher Jacob Newberry could be in uniform as soon as tonight. The Tourists’ season ended Monday.