I have seen crazier baseball games. But not many.
The Grand Junction Rockies home opener was as beautiful as it was ugly. And for the capacity crowd who witnessed it, it was absolutely unforgettable.
The two teams combined for nine errors and four or five web gems. The Rockies threw seven pitchers, two of whom were charged with blown saves (neither of whom gave up any earned runs), and they didn't score an earned run until 3B Luis Castro hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the tenth inning.
From today's Pebble Report by RhosIslandRoxFan:
This game was really, really bizarre though. I mean really, really bizarre. The two starters combined to go 3.1 innings, even though neither one of them allowed a run. The two teams combined for nine errors. The two pitching staffs walked a combined 14 men. Oh, and the two offenses went a combined 0-23 with runners in scoring position and still managed to score a combined 13 runs.
I don't know why the use of so many pitchers but hope to get an answer sometime today.
Terry McClure, playing left field last night, got things started in the first inning by lining the very first pitch of the Grand Junction Rockies home season down the right field line for a double that could have been a triple but he wisely decided to hold up and just steal the base easily a few pitches later. In the second, he also committed the first of many errors in the game with a mostly innocuous and unimportant overthrow of the cutoff man
The first run of the game came in the third when right fielder Wilson Soriano, who made two spectacular catches in right field -- one sprinting backwards for an over-the-shoulder catch at the wall, and one sliding in on a diving line drive in front of him (both of which would have scored runs) -- launched a missile that ate up the opposing shortstop and bounced into shallow left field.
Then, after a balk (because of course) Rockies SS Max George stole first base after striking out on a ball in the dirt and Soriano scored when the rushed throw attempt went wide of first. George then stole second in the more traditional manner. The guy goes from 0-60 in about two and half steps.
Speaking of speed. The rookie Rockies had an interesting night on the base-paths, swiping three bags and being caught three times. Both McClure and game hero Luis Castro had one of each. Also thrown out (almost assuredly on a blown hit and run) was big first baseman Henry Garcia.
Coming into the game, one of the things I wanted to see specifically was Garcia's work on defense. He clearly has the frame for massive power (and showed it off in BP) but he was surprisingly light on his feet and displayed good range to both sides on a number of balls that were hit his way.
The first play he made was a web gem and an error at the same time. He ranged to his right on a hard grounder and made a sliding stop but then bounced a throw from the ground missing the covering pitcher. Later in that inning, Garcia made an even more impressive play in terms of range, going deep into the hole between first and second, laying out, and again bouncing the throw but this time on target.
Hunter Brothers struggled recovering from a missed call that should have ended the inning on a play at first base, and walked a couple of guys who would score on Garcia's throwing error.
In the bottom of that fifth inning, the Rockies would retake the lead. Wesley Jones got things started with a solid line drive single and Wilson Soriano hit another screamer that was mishandled this time by the second baseman. After being bunted over by Max George, Terry McClure delivered a great situational at-bat and hit a deep liner that scored Jones from third on a sacrifice fly.
Soriano, who must have cast a curse on the Idaho Falls Chukkars, then scored on a passed ball.
The next few innings would contain some great defense (believe it or not) with the aforementioned Soriano plays in right, as well as an MLB level player from Wesley Jones at second, ranging into shallow right field on a grounder, sliding and spinning and throwing all in one motion to edge the runner at first. It was one of the best plays I've seen at this level.
After a single, an error on Max Geroge (dropping the throw from the pitcher on what should have been a double play), and a sacrifice bunt in the eighth to start the top of the eighth, pitcher Matt Pierpont lost his command a bit, allowing a run on a wild pitch and later walking in a run. Unfortunately he could have avoided having the bases loaded if not for a throwing error on a strikeout in the dirt from catcher Hamlet Marte who was otherwise brilliant behind the plate.
After the walked-in run, Henry Garcia made another exceptional play at first, this time ranging to his left and making a split second decision to spin and throw home to get the force rather than trying to tag first base initially. There would not have been time for for all that and Garcia made the wise decision to keep the run off the board. The next batter lined out to right and the damage was limited to two runs.
Both teams would go down in order in their next half innings, I guess so we could all catch our breath.
Though even then there was an odd play as Hamlet Marte hit a line drive single to center field and was thrown out at second trying to advance on a bad throw in, but he wasn't tagged and this prompted loud boos from the home faithful.
The Rockies went into the bottom of the ninth down 5-3. And it all began and ended with Luis Castro.
The third baseman chopped a ball to his counterpart and forced a throwing error with blazing speed, turning to his dugout and letting out a yell. Marte, clad in the armor of a backstop, stood on the top step leading the rest of his teammates in exuberant cheer.
Castro would advance on a passed ball though Dom Nunez (DH) who was mostly worked around all evening was walked anyway (his second of the game) and both runners would advance again on (you guessed it) another passed ball.
With the tying run at second Wesley Jones and Wilson Soriano delivered beautiful at-bats with inside out approaches that produced a sac grounder and a sac fly to tie the game. And at that point I couldn't remember ever hearing Sam Suplezio Field so loud.
The Rockies would again lose the lead in the top of the tenth after a single and a couple of walks, though the run came in on what was almost an inning ending double play, but the runner just beat the throw to first.
When Hamlet Marte started things off with another solid line drive single (much more on his game to come in DC in GJ), Henry Garcia hit a deep fly to right that got the crowd to its feet, but it fell just short of the warning track.
With Dom Nunez on deck and Luis Castro at the plate, I turned to a reporter from the Grand Junction Sentinel and remarked that I just hoped he didn't hit into a double play because I wanted to see what Dom would do in that situation. He reminded me that Castro had a ton of speed and that was unlikely.
After being down in the count 1-2, the speed factor was at the front of my mind and then it happened. That sound. That single glorious sound. Castro lined up a fastball up and away and hit a no-doubt, towering home run well, well, beyond the right field fence.
And Sam Suplezio "Coors Lite" Field exploded.
The capacity crowd stood and cheered and screamed as Castro was mobbed at home plate by his ecstatic teammates. There was a fireworks display after the game, but the loudest explosions of the night were the crack of Luis Castros bat and the roar of frenzied fans who stayed to the very end of this insane baseball game.
There is nothing better than opening day. Any baseball, anywhere, give me opening day. What a way to start a season.
I think I'm just now catching my breath.