GJ Rockies' late rally not enough to overcome 8-run deficit in loss
OGDEN, Utah — Short-handed maybe, but the Grand Junction Rockies’ bullpen did its job Tuesday.
Problem was, the starting pitching was shaky again, and the bats never really came around as the Rockies dropped their second game of the season, 8-5 to the Ogden Raptors.
Alving Mejias needed to pitch deep into the game to give the bullpen a break. The majority of the 18-man pitching staff was not available because many of the pitchers don’t have enough work in yet after only one week of camp.
Shawn Stuart was originally on that “not available” list, but he was taken off Tuesday afternoon. He showed he was ready, throwing 1 2/3 innings of solid relief and putting up the first zero on the board.
“Kib (pitching coach Ryan Kibler) told me on the bus that he might use me tonight and to be ready,” said Stuart, the Rockies’ 31st-round pick out of Long Beach State. “I was like, ‘All right, cool.’ ’‘
After a deep breath, he was calm and cool on the mound, too. He hit the first man he faced, Justin Boudreaux, but he was quickly erased, thanks to the strong arm and quick release of catcher Franmy Pena.
“That was all him,” Stuart said. “I gave him a bad leg time, so that was a great throw and a great tag (by shortstop Cesar Galvez). It was my fault, and they picked me up, and I appreciated that.”
Galvez caught the short-hop throw and in one motion slapped the tag on Boudreaux just before he got to the bag. Stuart got another ground ball and a strikeout to end the sixth, then gave up a bad-hop double over first base and into the right-field corner to lead off the seventh.
Alex Santana, though, flied out to left-center, and Eric Smith, who led off with the double, was thrown out trying to advance to third by Carl Thomore.
After a bloop single, Stuart was replaced by Kyle Roliard, who got a ground ball to end the inning. Jesse Meaux retired the Raptors in order in the eighth.
Mejias, though, struggled in his 3 2/3 innings, allowing six runs on 10 hits, walking two and striking out three, all in the third inning.
Ogden scored in each of the first five innings against Mejias and Raul Fernandez to take an 8-0 lead.
“We talked to the guys in our game review, and simply put, the first five innings compared to the last three, what was the difference?” Grand Junction manager Tony Diaz said. “We worked ahead and kept the ball down and got the results. I think we’re going to be fine, especially when they see the example is right there in front of them — boom, boom.”
Mejias pitched behind in the count, and when he tried to get ahead, his pitches were up in the zone, and the Raptors hit line drives.
Down eight, the Rockies, who managed only four hits off starter Matt Laney, finally got to the bullpen, and it made a difference.
After threatening with a one-out double by Ryan Garvey in the fifth inning, Grand Junction sent nine men to the plate in the sixth and got back into the game with five runs on only two hits.
Jason Stolz reached on an error, and sidearm reliever Jason West hit Julian Yan. After Ben Waldrip struck out, Thomore was hit to load the bases. Designated hitter Miguel De Leon walked in a run, and Pena, in his first game in the United States, laced a double down the left-field line to score two runs and send De Leon to third.
There was a discussion as to whether the ball got mixed up with one from the Ogden bullpen, which is close to the foul line, but the umpires ruled the correct ball was played. After West struck out Garvey, he was pulled for Michael Drowne, who threw a wild pitch to score De Leon. Juan Ciriaco singled to right, scoring Pena, before Galvez grounded out to end the threat.
Grand Junction had runners at first and second with one out, but Drowne struck out Thomore and De Leon in the seventh and escaped trouble with runners at second and third with one out in the eighth by getting a ground-out and strikeout.
Down 2-0 in the third, the Rockies had a chance against Laney when Garvey, who was 2 for 3 and reached base three times, singled and took third on a base hit up the middle by Ciriaco.
Galvez grounded sharply to third, and Garvey, who was running on contact, was thrown out at the plate. Ciriaco alertly took third but was stranded when Stolz popped out to third.
“These guys have shown me so far that they’ve got fight in them. There’s character on this team,” Diaz said. “To be down eight-nothing, a team can throw in the towel. To throw up five in that inning, I was quite pleased. We put runners on base and put some pressure on them. It’s a positive in my opinion.”
Diaz said he plans to have at least two players make their professional debuts tonight, including outfielder Jeff Popick, a Colorado Mesa University graduate. Matt Wessinger, who arrived late last week from St. John’s University, will likely start at shortstop.