Zac Grotz dominated the Grand Junction Rockies for six innings, then had to watch the bullpen nearly blow a 10-run lead. Ultimately, the Raptors prevailed to take the first two games of this series to come within one win of the playoffs.
Grotz (4-0) came into the game with a 0.75 ERA in four outings with Ogden, and left the game with a stellar 0.50 ERA after giving up one unearned run in six innings of work. Grotz, or "Just Wins Baby," has four wins (tied for the team lead) in five appearances after being signed August 19. Prior to being signed by the Dodgers, Grotz was pitching for an independent club in Pennsylvania. A Giants fan growing up, he has traded his orange for blue, and has made quite an impact with his new team so far.
The offense provided Grotz with plenty of run support, scoring two in the first, and four runs in the fourth and fifth innings.
In the first inning, Keibert Ruiz and DJ Peters had consecutive hits yet again, helping to load the bases for Cody Thomas, who drove them in with a single to right.
Ruiz, the 18-year old catching prodigy, was again in the middle of a scoring rally in the fourth, when he crushed his second homer of the year to score Moises Perez and Mitchell Hansen.
Ruiz had yet another stellar game, going 2-6 with two runs and three RBI, extending his hitting streak to 14 games. His batting average actually dropped to .348. He has tormented Grand Junction, going 17-36 for a .472 batting average this season.
Ogden put the game seemingly out of reach in the fifth inning when they roughed up reliever Jefry Valdez, who made his first appearance with the Rockies after recently getting called up. Valdez had the unfortunate opportunity to get Cody Thomas as his first Pioneer League batter, who welcomed him with a bomb to center field. Gavin Lux and Brock Carpenter manufactured a run, then Mitchell Hansen hit a two-run homer to center. For Hansen, it was his 11th of the year and his first since August 14. He also raised his batting average to an even. 300.
Shortstop Gavin Lux, the Dodgers' first-round pick (20th overall) of the 2016 draft, went 3-5 with two doubles to raise his batting average to .423 in seven games with the Raptors. He drove in a run in the sixth to give Ogden an 11-1 lead.
But this is the Pioneer League, and even 10 run leads are not always safe. It took Ogden four pitchers to finish off the game. Johan Diaz and Adalberto Pena combined to give up six runs, four hits, and four walks, while getting no one out.
With the score 12-10 going into the ninth, Chris Mathewson finally slammed the door shut by striking out the side and earning his first save.
The win puts Ogden at an even .500 on the year, at 37-37. It also gives them a half game lead over the Rockies in the second half of the season. Ogden needs one more win in the final two games to make the playoffs.
If the Raptors make the playoffs, they will play the Orem Owlz at Lindquist Field this Friday, September 9th, at 6:30 PM. They will then travel to Orem for games two and three, if necessary.
Before the game, the Pioneer League announced the DJ Peters was its Player of the Week. He seemed to raise his game another level during the playoff chase. His stats: .452/.514/.903, 8 G, 14-for-31, 2 2B, 4 HR, 9 RBI, 7 R, 4 BB, 4 K, 1 SB, 1 CS.
Peters was also named to the end-of-season Pioneer League All-Star team, the only Ogden Raptor to make the team, adding to his already sparkling resume. He was the 2016 Scenic West Athletic Conference Player of the Year at Western Nevada College, and earlier this season he was named the Pioneer League's MVP of the mid-season All-Star game between the Pioneer League and the Northwest League. The game was hosted by the Ogden Raptors at Lindquist Field. Peters homered in a losing effort in front of his own fans.
However, the recent playoff push by Peters was not enough to garner the end-of-season Pioneer League MVP, which went to Idaho Falls' catcher, Meibrys Viloria, who battled with Peters for the league lead in multiple batting categories.
Ogden will try to clinch the playoff birth tomorrow night in Grand Junction at Suplizio Field at 7:05PM. You can catch the action with the talented A.P. Harreld on the call. Just download the free TuneIn app and go to the Ogden Raptors Network.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.