On the attack
Aquino shuts down Voyagers as Rockies get back to winning
Jayson Aquino walked behind the mound, holding his glove to his mouth, scolding himself. He grabbed the rosin bag, pounded it on his right forearm and threw it back on the mound, a puff of white powder rising above the dirt.
The Grand Junction Rockies pitcher had just struck out the first two Great Falls batters in the fifth inning, then threw three straight balls. It was not what he had been told to do, and no one had to tell him that.
“He said he got away from the plan of attacking and that pissed him off,” Aquino said through manager Tony Diaz. “He just had to talk to himself and calm himself down.
“He tried to switch his thoughts in his head and go attack, attack, attack, and let’s see what happens.”
He walked Zachary Voight, but after falling behind 0-2 to Yoandy Barroso, got him to ground to short in the Rockies’ 10-1 win Saturday at Suplizio Field.
Aquino (2-0) threw seven innings, allowing only three hits, all singles, walking three and striking out six in his fourth start for the Rockies (31-27, 10-10) since being called up from the Dominican Summer League.
The only run the Voyagers (29-29, 5-15) scored came in the second inning when third baseman Ashley Graeter committed back-to-back errors to allow two runners to reach. Brad Salgado then lifted a fly ball deep to right to get the unearned run home.
After that, only six men reached base against Aquino, who got two double plays from his defense.
“He was OK early, and then he really settled down,” Diaz said. “Once he settled down he mixed his pitches well and did a nice job. One thing he did is he minimized, he didn’t pitch with a lot of traffic other than the ones who got on with the errors. It’s always more comfortable for a pitcher when they don’t pitch with a lot of traffic.”
Offensively, the Rockies came ready to hit, with six of their 11 hits going for extra bases. David Dahl went 3 for 4 and reached base four times, only a home run shy of hitting for the cycle.
“I was trying on that one when I rolled over,” he said of the one time the Voyagers got him out. “I had a feeling he was going to challenge me with a fastball, and I tried to guess into it. I guessed a little too early.”
Against reliever Brandon Brennan in the fifth, Dahl was a little antsy on the first pitch and got ahead of the fastball, grounding out to second base.
He doubled off the wall in the first, singled up the middle in the third, walked in the seventh and tripled to center in the eighth. He scored twice and drove in three runs.
“Even when I was going 1 for 4, 1 for 5 with the hit streak, I still wasn’t feeling great,” Dahl said of his 27-game hitting streak that ended Thursday. “I talked to a buddy of mine who played pro ball, too, and he told me when you’re not feeling great to get the foot down early and just try to see it and hit it hard, don’t press.
“That’s what I went back to, just trying to hit the ball the other way. When I started struggling a little bit I was pulling off everything, and all my outs were to second. You could tell I was flying open. I’m trying to stay with my approach, middle-away.”
Julian Yan doubled in the first to score Graeter, whose single off Voight’s glove behind second base scored Dahl from second when it rolled into the outfield grass. The ball was mishandled by Barroso in left near the wall in foul territory, allowing Jeff Popick to score the fourth run of the inning, more than enough cushion for Aquino.
Yan hit a line-drive home run to left-center in the third, his Pioneer League-leading 15th of the season.
“The last game I had four fly balls, so I’m trying to hit it on the ground,” Yan said of the line drive instead of the towering home runs he’s hit this season. “I’m more comfortable. We have a lot of confidence. They have a good pitcher, and they pitched good. We beat a good team, and we have a good team. We never quit.”
Grand Junction, which picked up a game on Orem in the second-half standings and is now two games behind the Owlz, added three more runs in the eighth on singles by Wilfredo Rodriguez and Matt Wessinger, a double by Ben Waldrip and Dahl’s 31st extra-base hit of the season, his 10th triple.
“It’s going real well right now,” Dahl said. “That road trip (11 games in 11 days starting Tuesday at Helena) is going to be tough, but we’ve got to battle through it and get some wins.”