Chukars down GJ Rox, split early season series

Grand Junction’s Dom Nunez, 19, slides into second base Monday during the Rockies’ 10-2 loss to Idaho Falls at Suplizio Field.

Idaho Falls couldn’t solve Grand Junction pitching Sunday afternoon.

Monday night, the Chukars had Carlos Polanco figured out early.

Polanco had trouble keeping the ball down in the zone early, and Idaho Falls made him pay, scoring four runs in the first three innings in a 10-2 victory, giving the Chukars a split of the four-game Pioneer League series.

“From the get-go, I don’t think Polanco set the tone like (Logan) Norris did (Sunday),” Grand Junction manager Anthony Sanders said. “It just carried from there. A lot of our pitchers have some work to do to get back down in the zone and get these guys off balance.”

Polanco’s first start in Ogden was a gem, allowing only one hit and striking out nine in six innings of a 14-3 win. Monday he lasted only 3 1/3 innings, giving up five runs on seven hits. He walked four and struck out two.

“Night and day from his last start,” Sanders said. “The other day he looked like the best pitcher in the league. It’s a learning experience for him. I know he’s frustrated a little bit, but it’s a good thing it happened to him now and he’ll handle it and move on.

“He just wasn’t himself tonight. He never established his fastball, didn’t get any of his off-speed pitches over for strikes. It’s not a good outing for him tonight. It was his first start at home, maybe the road was a little easier for him. He might have had people here he was trying to impress. Just take a deep breath and go get ‘em.”

A last-minute lineup change by Idaho Falls paid off in the first inning when Ryan O’Hearn doubled off the center-field wall, scoring Desmond Henry, who worked a leadoff walk, advanced to second on a passed ball and stole third.

O’Hearn went 5 for 5 in his debut Saturday and hit .467 against Grand Junction pitching in the series.

A three-run third inning had the Rockies playing catch-up, and unlike Friday night, it was too much to make up, especially after Kyle Pollack hit a three-run home run off the left-field light pole in the fifth inning against Christian Quintin.

The Rockies managed only a half-dozen hits to Idaho Falls’ 16, scoring single runs in the third and fourth innings.

“We weren’t that aggressive, either, and that was the outcome,” right fielder Denzel Richardson said. “They were playing real good defense.”

The Chukars robbed the Rockies of a couple of hits with diving catches in the outfield. Richardson, who doubled with two out in the fourth, stole third and scored on Renaldo Jenkins’ double, lined a shot that appeared headed for the gap in the ninth inning, but left fielder Jerrell Allen made a diving catch.

“He made a good dive and I can’t complain about that,” Richardson said.

The Rockies stranded six men in scoring position. The Chukars, on the other hand, found seemingly every hole there was at Suplizio Field, hitting five doubles.

Omar Carrizales singled and scored on a wild pitch in the third inning for Grand Junction (5-3), which opens a two-game series against Ogden tonight at Suplizio. Right-hander Tony Bryant (1-0) will start for the Rockies, with lefty Sam Howard scheduled to make his debut on Wednesday night.

Sanders knows the pitchers will work to get more consistent and hits will again start falling. The only thing he was really worried about Monday was the health of big first baseman Henry Garcia, who was hit in the left hand by a pitch in the sixth inning.

He immediately grabbed his hand and slowly walked toward first. After being examined by the medical staff he was removed from the game. The hand was heavily wrapped when he left the field after the game, headed to have it X-rayed.


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