Struggling out of the gate
GJ Rockies fall to 0-3 in 2nd half with loss to Orem
So much momentum down the stretch in the first half of the Pioneer League season, when the Grand Junction Rockies went 8-2, has been replaced by an 0-3 start to the second half.
The Rockies, after losing the first-half title to Ogden on the league tiebreaker of head-to-head results (0-8), lost their third straight game Tuesday night, 7-4 to Orem at Suplizio Field.
“We need to get in a groove,” left fielder Ryan Garvey said. “The hitters need to stay pressing and do what we’re doing and we should be fine. We need to execute a little more with guys on second or third, get that sac bunt or sac fly.”
Garvey thought he was going to be in that situation in the eighth inning Tuesday, but the Owlz didn’t give him that chance.
Nursing a 5-4 lead with one out and runners at second and third, the Owlz elected to walk Garvey, who tripled and scored in the second and was stranded at third in the fourth after a leadoff single, to load the bases.
“I was ready. I knew I was going to get up in a crucial situation and I was ready for that at-bat,” Garvey said. “I was going to lower my hands and get the ball in the outfield and score that run from third.
“I wasn’t really ready for the intentional, but (after the walk) the pitcher threw some good pitches. You just tip your cap and walk back.”
Julian Yan, who doubled and scored in the second, struck out against Robert Powell with the bases loaded. Powell then fanned Ben Waldrip, the third strikeout of the game for the Rockies’ hard-hitting first baseman.
“They hit when they had to and we didn’t,” Grand Junction manager Tony Diaz said. “There you go.”
Joel Capote hit a two-run home run off Jesse Meaux in the ninth to give the Owlz more breathing room.
Grand Junction tried to make it interesting in the ninth, with Wilfredo Rodriguez beating out an infield single and taking second on a throwing error. Jason Stolz was hit by a pitch, but Max White grounded into a double play and Juan Ciriaco flied out to right.
The Rockies answered Orem early, tied at 3-3 through four innings, but when the Owlz got men in scoring position with less than two outs, more often than not they scored.
“The Orem ballclub you’ve got to give them credit,” Diaz said. “They executed with runners on third with one out I think three times.”
Grand Junction (21-20, 0-3) faltered from the fourth inning on to push those runs across, and then didn’t get a man on for three straight innings.
After Adrian Gutierrez singled and scored in the fifth to give Orem (20-21, 3-0) a 4-3 lead, the Rockies went down in order against winning pitcher Nataniel Rodriguez (3-2) in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. And when they got to Michael Morin in the eighth, they squandered a chance to take the lead.
White punched a single to center, the first of three straight base hits for the Rockies. White scored to make it 5-4 on a base hit to right by David Dahl and Matt Wessinger moved Ciriaco and Dahl into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt.
Despite pitching well, Alving Mejias (2-5) took the loss in relief of Ryan Warner.
Mejias struck out six in four innings, and those six came in an eight-batter stretch. He allowed only the one run in the fifth.
“I was just throwing to my target, just trying to get ahead in the count and get them to make contact, but that didn’t happen,” Mejias said. “They struck out. Oh, OK.”
Diaz has shuffled the pitching rotation a bit, because the Rockies have promoted Jayson Aquino from the Dominican Summer League.
Aquino, the ace of the staff of the Rockies’ team in the Dominican Summer League, makes his Rookie debut Thursday. He went 6-1 with a 1.52 ERA, threw two complete games and averages 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings this season in the DSL. He’s fanned 74 and walked only nine.
“He’s got a good arm. He throws up to 94,” Diaz said of the left-hander, whose promotion has been anticipated for the past few weeks. “He’s got a nice changeup. He’s got a plus fastball with flashes of a plus changeup. He’s here. Finally we’ll see.”
Warner and Mejias will now piggyback to get both of them innings. The next time through the rotation, Mejias will start, with Warner coming out of the bullpen.
“It’s a little different mindset, but I made that adjustment from a starting role in my mind, just be ready for any situation,” Mejias said.
“Just get in your mind, this is my game, I’m going to throw it. This is my time, I’m going to throw it.”