6-run 6th lifts Rockies to win
They came to see Todd Helton.
They stayed to watch the next generation.
The second largest crowd of the season (5,161) saw the Grand Junction Rockies rally with six runs in the sixth inning Friday night to defeat the Missoula Osprey 10-5 at Suplizio Field to climb one game above .500. Only the home opener drew more fans to Suplizio (5,312).
“Todd makes it easy,” Grand Junction manager Tony Diaz said of how his young club handled playing with a five-time All-Star. “Todd is just a pro in all senses of the word. Behind the Hall of Fame player that everybody is aware of is a very humble human being. We’re excited to have him here. It’s always a pleasure to have him around, and he has fun as well.”
Grand Junction (16-15) remained two games behind Ogden in the South Division of the Pioneer League after the Raptors beat Great Falls 2-1.
Stringing together five singles and taking advantage of one error, a walk and a hit batter, the Rockies came back from a 5-3 deficit.
Strangely enough, the Rockies’ big inning came after Helton took himself out of the game in the fifth. He singled in his first two at-bats, driving in one run.
After his fifth-inning walk, he gave way to Ben Waldrip. Before the game Helton said he expected to play five or six innings Friday and depending on how his hip feels, play the entire game tonight.
The guy behind Helton in the batting order, Jeff Popick, not only extended his hitting streak to nine games with a first-inning single, he added an RBI double in the eighth. He was hit by a pitch in the sixth with the bases loaded, bringing home the fourth run of the inning.
“Things have carried over. I’m keeping the same mindset, trying to put good swings on it,” said Popick, who has boosted his batting average to .357. “I’m not worrying too much about the outcome and taking things one day at a time.”
Ryan Warner gave up a pair of first-inning runs in his second start of the season on three base hits and a sacrifice fly, but he retired seven in a row before allowing a leadoff double and an RBI single in the fourth to fall behind 3-1.
The 18-year-old from Colorado Springs got out of the fourth on a pair of fly balls. He struck out three and walked one.
“That’s one of those things about Ryan, he just competes,” Diaz said. “Yeah, he gave up the runs, but he minimized the damage and gave us a chance to come back.”
Brian Rike picked up his second win in relief, retiring all six men he faced in the sixth and seventh innings. Shawn Stuart gave up a two-run home run to Jake Lamb in the fifth after Evan Marzilli hit a one-out triple to right.
Chris Cowell drove in a run in the fourth inning for the Rockies, and Matt Wessinger’s base hit in the fifth scored David Dahl, who reached on an infield single before Helton walked.
In the sixth, Jason Stolz and Cowell reached on back-to-back singles. Max White’s sacrifice bunt turned into a bases-loaded situation when Missoula catcher Michael Perez dropped the ball and couldn’t make a play.
Juan Ciriaco and Dahl followed with RBI singles, and Waldrip walked in the go-ahead run. On the next pitch, reliever Dexter Price plunked Popick, sending another run across. Wessinger singled in another run, and Julian Yan’s fielder’s choice made it 9-5.
With Rike, Rayan Gonzalez and Jessie Meaux not allowing a man to reach base over the final four innings — and Stuart retired the final two he faced in the fifth — the Rockies added one more run in the eighth.
Waldrip was hit in the right foot, and Popick doubled to the gap in right-center, with Waldrip, a 6-foot-7 first baseman, scoring from first.
One night after winning despite getting only four hits, the Rockies put up 14 hits Friday.
“That’s part of the game,” Popick said of the 10-batter sixth. “Hitting is contagious. It’s part of the game, and you have to capitalize on those opportunities when they’re given to you.”
■ The Rockies have added Jeremy McLeod to the roster. The outfielder signed as a free agent out of Guilford Tech (N.C.) Community College.
■ Alving Mejias is scheduled to start tonight against the Osprey in the third game of a four-game series. Gates open at 4:30 p.m. for what is expected to be another big crowd in Helton’s final game in his rehab assignment.
■ Johendi Jiminian pitches Sunday, and Eddie Butler has the first game of a three-game series Monday against Billings.
■ After going 0-7 last season against Missoula as the Casper Ghosts, the Rockies are 4-1 against the Osprey.