Offensive outburst helps Rockies beat Ogden for 1st time
After eight straight losses to Ogden in the first half of the season, the Grand Junction Rockies apparently had enough, routing the Raptors 11-3 on Friday night.
Behind Eddie Butler’s six shutout innings on the mound and gap ball after gap ball after gap ball, the Rockies finally broke through against Ogden, which won the Pioneer League first-half title on head-to-head competition after the teams tied.
Butler (5-1) extended his string of scoreless innings at Suplizio Field to 16 2/3. He’s given up only three runs in his past four starts, those on the road in a win at Idaho Falls in the final game of the first half.
“It’s delightful to watch him pitch. This guy goes after hitters,” Grand Junction manager Tony Diaz said. “You know they’re going to hit the ball on the ground.
“He’s a bulldog.”
The way the schedule and Grand Junction’s pitching rotation fell, the Raptors hadn’t faced Butler. They saw plenty Friday.
“Definitely any time a team’s not familiar with what you’re doing and what your tendencies are, it only helps out,” said Butler, who mixed not only his sinker and slider, but changeups and curves to keep the Raptors guessing. He topped out at 97 mph.
The Rockies (23-21, 2-4) are confident with the lanky right-hander on the mound, knowing they’re going to get fly balls and grounders. That confidence oozed over to the offense, which had a dozen hits, seven for extra bases.
“With Eddie we’re very comfortable; he’s good,” right fielder Julian Yan said. “When he’s pitching we’re comfortable and the defense is very good. When the defense is good, the hitting shows up because we’re excited.”
Jeff Popick hit the first gapper, to the wall next to the 410 sign in left-center. That scored two runs in the first inning.
Doubles by Yan and Correlle Prime sandwiched a base hit and two-base error on a ball hit to right field by Wilfredo Rodriguez in the Rockies’ three-run fourth against starter Lindsey Caughel (0-1).
After gapping the Raptors into submission in the first five innings, the Rockies showed their power in the sixth. Jason West hit two batters and gave up a base hit to David Dahl, whose 2-for-5 night extended his hitting streak to 16 games and raised his average to .371.
Popick flied out to center against Derek Cone, getting one run home, and Yan and Rodriguez hit back-to-back home runs, Yan’s a towering three-run shot to center and Rodriguez’s a line shot next to the scoreboard.
“I was thinking it was a fly ball to center field and I was hustling and then I saw it go over the fence and was like, wow,” Yan said. “It was a high fly ball, I hit it high.”
The Raptors (23-21, 2-4) finally got on the board in the eighth against Tony Seise, who gave up three runs, including a two-run home run to Jose Capellan.
Butler got plenty of defensive help early, with three double plays in his six innings. He walked two, struck out four and allowed five hits.
His strikeouts came at key times, with runners in scoring position in the first and fourth innings, both times striking out the final two batters of the inning.
“I got myself into those situations and it’s always great to have the team behind you to get you out of it,” Butler said. “But when you’ve got runners on second and third you kind of have to step up and put the weight on your shoulders.
“I was able to do that tonight and the other innings they helped me out with runners on first base with less than two outs.”