Second-half frustration

GJ Rockies on wrong end of pitching duel in loss to Chukars

Emerson Jimenez throws to first Thursday night to complete a double play in the fourth inning of the Grand Junction Rockies’ 3-1 loss to Zane Evans and Idaho Falls at Suplizio Field.

The second half of the Pioneer League season, so far, has not been kind to the Grand Junction Rockies.

One night after committing a whopping eight errors in an 11-10 loss to Orem, the Rockies played cleanly Thursday against Idaho Falls, save for one dropped foul ball.

Thursday, the Rockies were two-hit by the Chukars in a 3-1 loss at Suplizio Field, their 10th loss in the past 13 games. After winning the first half of the season to clinch a playoff spot, the Rockies have started the second half 3-6, are now only one game above .500 at 24-23, and are in last place, two games behind the rest of the South Division.

“We’re just going through one of those spells right now and we just have to keep working through it and get better every day,” manager Anthony Sanders said. “I’ve never mentioned to these guys about winning and losing ballgames. It’s about how we play. It’s about development, but we do those little things right, we’ll win some ballgames.”

Joel Payamps and Jonathan Dziedzic dominated early, neither starting pitcher allowing a hit through three innings. Payamps, the Rockies’ starter, allowed only two base runners through three, hitting Humberto Arteaga to lead off the game and walking him in the third.

Dziedzic, a left-hander who throws a lot of off-speed pitches, was perfect through four.

“They were just hitting their spots keeping everything down and hats off to them,” said Ryan McMahon, who broke up Dziedzic’s no-hitter in the fifth. “They did a great job tonight.”

Payamps (4-4) blinked first, giving up a double to lead off the fourth, but a double play and a strikeout got him out of trouble. He ran out of steam in the fifth, though, when the Chukars scored twice. An infield hit off Payamps’ glove got Alexis Rivera on, and he stole second.

With the wind blowing in, Grand Junction’s outfield was playing shallow. Dominique Taylor, though, sliced a triple through the wind into the left-center gap, scoring Rivera. Taylor made it 2-0 when Carlos Garcia singled to left with two out.

The Rockies’ only run came in the fifth, when McMahon scored on a base hit to right by Miguel Dilone. Dilone was caught stealing, and Grand Junction had only one more base runner all night.

Dziedzic earned his first win, allowing one run on two hits in five innings. He struck out three. Cody Reed and Josiel Martinez didn’t allow a hit over the final four innings.

“Funny thing in baseball, you always get that soft-throwing lefty up there and it throws those guys off balance,” Sanders said. “We just couldn’t grind anything out. We had one inning where we had good situational hitting, got a guy on and (Ryan) Garvey moved the runner and we got him in on Dilone’s hit, but that was it.”

The Rockies’ bullpen, which has struggled to get men out the past couple of weeks, got a boost Thursday. Angel Lezama needed only one pitch to get a line drive for the third out of the fifth inning, then struck out two in the sixth to strand two runners.

Carlos Estevez allowed one run without a hit in the seventh when a leadoff walk came around after a groundout, wild pitch and sacrifice fly.

“I came out there and tried to do the job,” Estevez said. “Angel did a good job, too. He came in with runners on base and threw that pitch and got an out and the next inning just threw strikes. I tried to do my best after that.”

Estevez gave the coaching staff a scare in the eighth when, after fielding a chopper back to the mound and throwing out the runner, he started hobbling on the mound. He finished the game and afterwards said he was OK.

“I just twisted it out there. I got the ball and was working around to (tuck) my jersey in and I just twisted it,” he said. “That hurt.”

McMahon said it’s been a frustrating couple of weeks, but knows it’ll turn around. He just hopes that turnaround is soon.

“Truthfully, yeah,” he said when asked if it’s hard not to get frustrated. “Baseball is a game of failure, so you do get frustrated, but every day is a new day. We have to come back tomorrow and maybe put it together and get hot. It just takes one day.”


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