Colo. Springs, COLORADO - The Rocky Mountain Vibes hosted the third-largest crowd of the year at their home closer Saturday night, toasting the culmination of their inaugural season in Colorado Springs with fireworks and post-game celebrations down on the field of UCHealth Park. Though the Vibes lost the final game of the year 7-6 to the Grand Junction Rockies, they split the final series 2-2.
The Vibes went three up and three down in the first inning, but came out swinging in the second. Bryan Torres collected the first hit of the contest with a single to right on the first pitch he saw, then stole second for his 20th steal of the season, tying him for the league lead in swipes with Grand Junction's own Eddy Diaz. Edwin Sanó then walked to put two on for Alex Hall, who doubled them both home to put the Vibes up 2-0.
Carlos Luna, who started the home closer for the Vibes tonight, was not wasting any time in the season finale. He faced the minimum through the first three innings, taking a no-hitter/perfect game into the fourth frame, before surrendering a one-out single to Ezequiel Tovar. Julio Carreras then doubled to plate Tovar, moving up to third on the Vibes' first error of the night. A Brenton Doyle single brought Carreras home to tie the game at two runs apiece.
In the top of the sixth, the Rockies broke up the tie via a Bladimir Restituyo solo homer to lead off the inning. Grand Junction went on to score three more runs in the inning to take a 6-2 lead.
In the bottom of the seventh the Vibes were able to score again for the first time since the second inning. Sanó led off with a double, moving up to third on a groundout, and scoring on another groundout to make it a 6-3 affair.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Vibes rallied for two more runs to keep the game close. Nick Egnatuk led off with a walk, followed by Rodriguez and Torres back-to-back singles to score Egnatuk to cut the deficit to two. A wild pitch allowed Rodriguez to score to bring the lead within one, before Torres stole third for his 21st steal of the year, taking sole possession of the lead in stolen bags in the Pioneer League in the process.
In the top of the ninth inning, the Rockies scored a sole run to extend their lead to two at 7-5.
Luis Avalo wouldn't let the season end on that note, however, homering to lead off the bottom of the ninth to make it a one-run ballgame. Unfortunately, the rally would fall shy as the Rockies held on the split the series, two games apiece.
For all information on the Vibes, follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @vibesbaseball and visit the team's website at www.vibesbaseball.com.
Attached photo courtesy of: Paat Kelly
2019 Season Summary and Historical Context: As this first Vibes season comes to an end (32-42 through Friday, at a .432 winning percentage), there was a similar pattern set for Colorado Springs minor league teams over the years, struggling to adjust to the region and the altitude in their first year transitions into the region. In 1901, the first season of the Millionaires, that team finished 46-73-2 (.388), going 3-20-2 in their last 25 games that season. In 1950, the first year of the Single-A Sky Sox, that team finished 72-82-2 (.468). In 1988, the first Triple-A season after arriving from Honolulu, that team finished 62-77 (.446). In 1993, the first Sky Sox year under affiliation with the Colorado Rockies, the Sky Sox were 66-75 (.468). In 2015, the first year under affiliation with the Milwaukee Brewers, the Sky Sox were 62-81 (.433). While this season didn't finish as planned, here's a sign of optimism in the not so distant future. In each era, by the time that team completed their second or third season in Colorado Springs, each era's team would finish the season above .500 in year three, and each would make it to the postseason, with the exception of the 1903 Millionaires. That 1903 team would finish 77-52 that season, but 8 games back from a division title. Their best season would be in year four in 1904 at 85-58, but finishing 1½ games behind the eventual division champion. The Millionaires team would leave Colorado Springs and move to Pueblo midway through the 1905 season. In 1952, the third season of the Single-A Sky Sox, that team was 87-67, and made it to the Western League playoffs. The 1950's era Sky Sox would also make it to the postseason in 1953 and 1955 before winning the Western League regular season title during their final season in 1958 (87-60). The Western League ceased operations after the 1958 regular season. As for the Triple-A Sky Sox era, the Sky Sox made it to the postseason under Cleveland Indians affiliation in years two and three, going 78-64 in 1989 and 76-67 in 1990, gaining a playoff berth in the Pacific Coast League during their split season formats. The Sky Sox would also make the postseason in 1991 (72-67) and won the PCL Championship in 1992 (84-57), during their final year as an Indians affiliate. During the Sky Sox affiliation with the Rockies, the Sky Sox made it to the postseason in 1994 and 1995 in years two and three, going 70-69 in 1994, gaining a playoff berth in the PCL and 77-66 in 1995, winning the PCL Championship. The Sky Sox would make only one other appearance in the postseason in 1997 (76-64), before their affiliation with the Rockies ended in 2014. As for the Sky Sox affiliation with the Milwaukee Brewers, the Sky Sox made it to the PCL postseason by year three in 2017, going 80-57, in a more difficult era, winning a PCL division title, without the assistance of a split season format. The Sky Sox missed the playoffs last season on the final day at 73-66, needing to win one of their last four games at home against Oklahoma City to clinch a playoff berth, but lost both games of a doubleheader on the final day, just missing that last PCL playoff spot.
Torres Swipes: With the 20th and 21st stolen bases Saturday night by Bryan Torres, it marks the fourth straight year a Colorado Springs team had a player who has led the team with 20 or more stolen bases in a season. The last three team leaders with 20 or more stolen bases for the Triple-A Sky Sox were Eric Young, Jr. with 23 stolen bases in the 2016 season, Kyle Wren with 26 stolen bases in the 2017 season, and Keon Broxton with 27 stolen best last season in 2018. Eric Young, Jr. holds the Triple-A Sky Sox career SB mark with 108 stolen bases (58 in 2009, 10 in 2010, 17 in 2011, 23 in 2016).
Pioneer Playoff Preview: With Billings clinching the second-half division title Thursday night, the playoff picture is set for Sunday, September 8th. In the Northern Division, the Billings Mustangs will be facing off against the first-half winners, the Idaho Falls Chuckars. The Ogden Raptors will take on the Grand Junction Rockies for the Southern Divisional series. The teams will play a best-of-three series before advancing to another best-of-three series for the Pioneer League Championship.
Luna's Season-End Honor: Right-hander Carlos Luna was named to the 2019 Pioneer League Season-End All-Stars Sunday night, joining a 16-man crew selected by the league office. Luna has been every bit dominant since the August 6 All-Star Game. The righty has posted a 2.66 ERA in 20 1/3 innings thrown, collecting a 2-1 record in that span. In his four starts, Luna has permitted 18 hits and four walks while allowing just six runs and striking out 28 batters.
Wait for Iiiiiiiiit: Prior to Thursday night, the longest home delay the Vibes had so far this season was an hour-and-20-minute delay on August 20, when the Ogden Raptors were in town. Thursday night, the Vibes and the Rockies sat through an hour-and-24-minute pregame delay due to rain, with first pitch not coming until 8:04 p.m.
Birthday Boy: Steve Pastora had his 25th birthday on Tuesday, and celebrated with an excellent relief appearance. Pastora threw 2.1 scoreless, hitless innings, walking two and striking out four Grand Junction batters.
NEXT GAME: June 2020 @ UCHealth Park!!
RMV TOP PERFORMERS
Carlos Luna (4 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 SO)
Bryan Torres (4-for-4, R, 2 SB)
Alex Hall (1-for-2, 2B, 2 RBI)
GJR TOP PERFORMERS
Andrew Quezada (4 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 3 SO)
Julio Carreras (3-for-5, 2B, 2 R, RBI)
Bladimir Restituyo (1-for-3, HR, R, RBI)