Trio of HRs help Rockies snap 4-game losing streak

Maybe there’s rarer air in Montana than Colorado, where baseballs are known to fly out of ball parks.

Whatever it is, the Grand Junction Rockies sent three more balls over the fence Thursday night in Missoula, Mont., as they snapped a four-game losing streak with a 4-3 win over the Osprey in Pioneer League play.

The biggest blow in terms of timing was first baseman Ben Waldrip’s solo shot in the top of the ninth inning with one out.

It was his fifth home run of the season, and it gave Grand Junction (11-13) its first lead of the game, which closer Scott Oberg made stand as he earned his third save of the season by retiring the Osprey in order in the bottom of the frame. Oberg struck out the last two batters, getting the final batter to look at a third strike.

Before the ninth inning heroics, however, the Rockies needed the long ball to stay in the game.

Julian Yan hit a solo home run in the fifth inning to put Grand Junction on the board after it fell behind 3-1 by allowing Missoula (13-11) three runs on four hits in the third inning.

Aside from that third inning, Grand Junction got a solid outing from starting pitcher Eddie Butler, who worked the first five frames, four of them scoreless, scattering six hits.

And Butler wasn’t exactly hit hard in the third inning, which the Osprey opened by reaching base on an error, then getting a ground-ball single and a bunt single to load the bases. A fielder’s choice plated the first run, and consecutive ground-ball singles to right field by Jake Lamb and Michael Perez each brought home a run.

But that was the last time any of the Osprey hitters went home. Butler shut them out for the next two innings, then handed the ball to Ryan Warner, who ran his record to 3-0 by hurling three scoreless frames, scattering four hits with no walks.

For that matter, Grand Junction’s three pitchers didn’t allow a walk in the game, and they overcame four errors.

The Rockies also were outhit 10-7, but what they lacked in quantity they made up for with quality, meaning the long ball.

Grand Junction has hit five home runs in the first two games of this three-game series with Missoula, and all have been solo shots except one: designated hitter Jose Briceno’s two-run blast in the top of the eighth inning to tie the game 3-3. Yan was hit by a pitch to open the inning, and Briceno followed by depositing the ball over the left-field fence.

Yan and Briceno, batting sixth and seventh in the order, respectively, each went 2 for 3 at the plate.

Rockies radio play-by-play announcer Adam Spolane said Missoula’s Ogren Park at Allegiance Field can yield some cheap home runs, but none of the Rockies’ home runs Thursday night were of that ilk.

“You kind of knew it off the bat on each one,” Spolane said. “They were not cheap home runs. They would have been out anywhere.”

Aside from Yan’s home run, Missoula starting pitcher Yoimer Camacho kept the Rockies’ bats quiet in his five innings. He scattered four hits, didn’t walk anyone and struck out seven.


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