7th-inning letdown

Seven-run inning lifts Idaho Falls past GJ Rockies

Dom Nunez slides safely into second base Thursday night with a stolen base as Idaho Falls’ Carlos Garcia bobbles the ball in the second inning of the Grand Junction Rockies’ 9-4 loss to the Chukars at Suplizio Field. Nunez hit a home run in the eighth inning of the loss.

It wasn’t the kind of homecoming the Grand Junction Rockies had in mind.

“Tough luck right there,” manager Anthony Sanders said Thursday night after a rough seventh inning cost the Rockies in a 9-4 loss to Idaho Falls at Suplizio Field.

“You leave the ball up and you pay for it. Great game until that one inning. I wish we could turn that back but you can’t.”

After an impressive pitching performance by Peter Tago, the bullpen let it get away, giving up seven runs in the seventh inning. The Rockies could have moved within one game of clinching the first-half Pioneer League South title with a win.

The Rockies (20-13) have a 
2½-game lead on Orem with five games to play in the first half.

Grand Junction scratched out one run in each of the second, third and fifth innings to lead Idaho Falls 3-2. The Chukars (16-17) tied it in the sixth on a solo home run by Cody Stubbs.

Tago retired the next three batters and turned the game over to the bullpen.

“(Jose) Briceno called a great game. He’s a great catcher,” Tago said. “The defense was ... oh, my gosh, they had my back. For me, it was the tempo of the game. I feel if I can keep a good tempo and keep them off their toes and keep our team on their toes we’ll be in control.”

Billy Waltrip, though, couldn’t get out of the seventh, giving up six runs in only one-third of an inning. An infield hit, an error that allowed a run to score and two wild pitches, both of which scored runs, contributed to the seven-run outburst.

Scott Firth came on with four runs already in and two men on, but Daniel Rockett hit his second pitch over the left-field wall before Firth struck out the next two batters.

Dom Nunez hit a solo home run in the eighth for Grand Junction.

The Rockies had chances to pad the lead early, but stranded 10 base runners through the first seven innings. Raimel Tapia extended his hitting streak to 23 games with a fourth-inning double down the first-base line that knocked umpire Alex Mackay to the ground as he jumped out of the way.

Tapia stole third and tried to score on a pitch that bounced away from catcher Zane Evans, who recovered in time for the tag.

In the sixth, Terry McClure’s bid for a home run came up inches short of clearing the wall, and he sped around to third. He over-slid the base, though, and was tagged out.

In the third, after Correlle Prime singled home Ryan McMahon, Ryan Garvey was hit in the helmet for the second time this season.

The first beaning, to the front of his head, sent him to the disabled list with a concussion, but Thursday, after being hit in the side of the helmet, he convinced trainer John Duff and Sanders that he was OK.

“I couldn’t believe it. Again? I was like, ‘Is there a magnet in (my helmet)?’ ‘’ Garvey said. “I was irritated. Again, how could that happen twice already in a matter of a month?”

In his next at-bat against Tyler Mack, Garvey drove an RBI double to right-center.

“My dad always said if you want to drive a Taurus, hit to left, if you want to drive a Mercedes, hit to right,” Garvey said, laughing. “I did that right there and got the double and the run in. Unfortunately the pitching struggled today, but we’ll pick them up tomorrow.”

Tago, the Rockies’ first-round draft pick in 2011, has consistently improved since being assigned to Grand Junction from Tri-City (short-season Class A). Thursday might have been his best outing yet.

He relied on his fastball and change-up, allowed two runs on six hits, struck out three and walked three. Tago also picked off Elier Hernandez after his leadoff single in the third.

“My pregame bullpen, my breaking ball wasn’t really there but I wanted to make sure I had two solid pitches before I came in the ballgame,” he said. “I mixed the fastball and change, and my breaking ball was there just enough to give these guys a chance to win the ballgame.”

Other than the two runs that scored, only two base runners reached third against Tago.

“Peter kept a great tempo all night,” third baseman Ryan McMahon said. “He was hitting his spots, getting batters out pretty quick. We were playing great behind him. His pitch count was up and they made the change and we had that one inning ... that’s just baseball.”

Notes: A blister on the pitching hand of Blake Shouse has scratched him from his scheduled start tonight. Helmis Rodriguez will start tonight in his place. The Rockies also have the option of moving Devin Burke into the rotation if Shouse is sidelined longer than one start. … Pitcher Jordan Mejia has been released. Infielder Wesley Jones, the Rockies’ 31st-round selection, has signed and joined Grand Junction on the recent road trip to Montana.


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