Mound trouble

Pitching problems plague GJ Rockies in latest loss

Jason Stolz forces Chevy Clarke out at second to start a double play Wednesday night in the Grand Junction Rockies’ 7-4 loss to Orem.

Just when you think they’ve got it …

“But no they don’t,” Grand Junction Rockies manager Tony Diaz said Wednesday night of his pitching staff, after the club lost its fourth consecutive game to open the second half of the Pioneer League season, 7-4 to Orem.

Shawn Stuart, who got a spot start for the Rockies, breezed through the first two innings, aided by a spectacular double play, when Jeff Popick caught a ball against the left-field wall, and, from the warning track, threw out Jonathan Walsh trying to advance to third.

In the third, Stuart gave up four runs, including back-to-back home runs and back-to-back doubles.

The Rockies never recovered.

“The hit-by-pitch and the walk, they hit two-run home runs,” Diaz said. “I tell the guys solo home runs will not beat you. We had two solo (home runs) and that didn’t beat them. But their home runs with men on…crooked numbers, that beats you.”

Matt Wessinger led off the bottom of the first with a triple, and for a split second thought Diaz might wave him around third for an inside-the-park home run on the ball hit to the power alley in left-center.

“I was really hoping so. I saw him waving as I was getting to third and I thought, ‘Yes, I’m going to get to,’ and then I looked up and he had his hand up so I had to stop,” Wessinger said.

“It was a little bit of a low throw and it kind of skipped on the catcher and you never know with someone coming in, but it would have been nice. In that situation, though, it was the right play.”

He scored on David Dahl’s sacrifice fly. Ryan Garvey — more on him later — doubled to the left-field corner, but was stranded at third.

Michael Ramirez, who joined the club last week because of a rash of injuries to the catchers, doubled in a run in the second. After that, Orem’s Jairo Diaz was pretty much unhittable through the sixth.

In the third inning, Garvey, who has been hot at the plate lately, was hit in the left hand by a pitch and was taken for X-rays. After the game, Diaz said he hadn’t heard the results, but even if his hand isn’t broken, Garvey is likely out for a few games.

Second baseman Juan Ciriaco sustained a bad bruise below his left thumb on the palm side during pregame drills Tuesday and was a late scratch.

The Owlz (21-21, 4-0) extended the lead to 6-2 on Wade Hinkle’s eighth home run of the season, a two-run shot to right after a walk.

Another run came home in the eighth for Orem after the Rockies hit back-to-back solo home runs in the seventh. Julian Yan led off the inning with his sixth home run, followed by Ben Waldrip’s eighth.

Once again, it boiled down to the pitchers not getting ahead in counts and giving up home runs with runners on base. The five pitchers combined to walk only four and struck out 12, but they couldn’t shut down the Owlz after the offense put up runs.

Wessinger, who was slated to start at shortstop, but moved to second when Ciriaco was scratched, tripled with two out in the fifth but was stranded when Dahl grounded out. The triple was the first hit for Grand Junction since the second.

Dahl extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a bunt single in the eighth inning.

Jairo Diaz (4-3) went seven innings, allowing four runs on six hits. He struck out five and didn’t walk a batter — none of the three Owlz pitchers walked a Rockies hitter, although they did hit two.

Grand Junction (21-21, 0-4) wraps up the series with Orem tonight with the debut of Jayson Aquino, who was promoted from the Rockies’ Dominican Summer League team this week. He was 6-1 with a 1.52 ERA in the DSL, with 74 strikeouts and nine walks.

If he can continue that in Rookie ball, it could be the missing piece of the puzzle for Grand Junction.

“We can talk all we want to talk, but it starts with pitching, and ends with pitching,” Diaz said. “That’s one thing that has really been a challenge the whole year. We went through a stretch where we did better, but overall, the shutdown inning after we score, we have not done that well as a team.

“I was talking to the boys, and Doug Linton, our pitching coordinator, is in town and I may have him talk to the pitchers. It’s a game of momentum, and after you score, even if they come back with one, they feel it, we’ve got the momentum back on our side.”


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