Marte picks up pitcher, but Grand Junction falls to Helena
Hamlet Marte believes in picking up his pitcher.
“(Carlos) Polanco was angry because of those two runs and I go to him and I say, ‘Polanco, I will hit a homer for you,’ ” said Marte, the Grand Junction Rockies’ catcher.
Marte is also a man of his word.
After Polanco gave up two runs in the third inning Sunday, Marte drilled a three-run home run to center field to give the Rockies a brief 3-2 lead. Polanco couldn’t hold it, though, giving up five runs in the fourth inning in Helena’s 7-5 Pioneer League victory at Suplizio Field.
Marte’s second home run of the season followed back-to-back singles by Max George and Terry McClure, with McClure dropping his single behind second base on a hit-and-run that sent George to third. After Wilson Soriano flied out, Marte sent Helena center fielder Brandon Diaz sprinting back to the wall in vain.
Other than that inning, though, Helena starter Chad Thompson was in control in his five innings. He retired final eight men he faced, although he walked Kevin Padlo in the fourth. Padlo, though, was thrown out trying to steal second. Thompson (3-2) struck out five and walked only one.
The Rockies (15-12) managed only two more base runners until the ninth inning against Helena’s bullpen.
The fourth inning was Grand Junction’s downfall. Mitch Meyer led off with a home run and the next four men reached base. Sthervin Matos hit a two-run double down the left-field line, ending Polanco’s day.
Taylor Black gave up two hits, but Alan Sharkey was thrown out at the plate trying to score from first on Jack Cleary’s RBI double that scored Matos.
Polanco (3-3) allowed seven runs on 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings.
“He struggled again, his fastball was up and that gives these guys a chance to hit the ball,” Grand Junction manager Anthony Sanders said. “He couldn’t get his off-speed pitches across for a strike and that’s what happens. I know he’s throwing 96-plus up there, but as you see, if you can’t get it down, people hit it.”
Grand Junction’s bullpen allowed only three singles the rest of the way. In the seventh, after Sharkey reached on an error, Cleary lined out to McClure in center on a hit-and-run. McClure threw out Sharkey as he tried to retreat to first and Alec Kenilvort struck out Meyer.
A couple of base running mistakes by the Brewers turned into head’s-up plays by the Rockies in the eighth.
Munoz dropped a single in behind second base, with Wesley Jones and George both trying to field the ball. No one was covering second, and with Edgardo Rivera, who had singled, taking third, Munoz tried to take an extra base. First baseman Nate Causey, though, hustled to second and took the throw from Jones, making a sweeping tag just before Munoz got to the base.
With Brandon Diaz hitting, Rivera broke for the plate, which caught Marte by surprise.
“That surprised me,” he said. “I blocked the ball, and I always see the guy on third and I see the guy’s close to me and I say ‘Oh my gosh,’ ’’ Marte said. “I have to make the decision, because he was too close to me, if I throw the ball, he comes home. I run behind him and then throw the ball to third.”
The play surprised just about everybody.
“I saw their manager look at their runner like ‘What are you doing?’ ’’ Sanders said. “There was nothing on on that play. (Marte) did good job, ran him all the way back and made a good decision.”
Diaz then grounded out and Garrett Schlecht set the Brewers down in order in the ninth, giving the Rockies a chance.
Padlo doubled to left to score Luis Castro, who reached on a fielder’s choice, and Padlo made it a two-run game when he scored on a two-out single up the middle by George. McClure grounded to the hole at third and slid head-first into first on a bang-bang play to try to keep the inning alive, but was called out.
“We were fine for some runs (early) but today, they got the momentum, it was not in our team today,” Marte said. “We don’t keep the momentum on our side when we were winning and they made some runs and it was all on their side.”
Short hops: The Rockies had a third catcher for only a few hours. Alex San Juan arrived from Modesto on Saturday night, but was back on a plane for Modesto on Sunday morning. Will Swanner and Chris O’Dowd were moved from Modesto to Double-A Tulsa, which was down to one catcher. Sanders said Causey will start getting some playing time behind the plate. Troy Stein returned to Grand Junction’s dugout Sunday after surgery to repair ligament damage to his left thumb. He has his left hand in a cast and his arm in a sling. … Center fielder Wes Rogers, who played for Spartanburg Methodist College in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series in May, will take batting practice and go through pregame workouts tonight and should be cleared to play on the Rockies’ road trip to Montana, Sanders said. Rogers injured an ankle during the first week of the season. “More problems for me with another good outfielder, and another center fielder as well,” Sanders quipped. … The children of Sanders and Tony Diaz, the Rockies’ developmental supervisor, have been in town during the homestand, but head home to Arizona today. Sanders has three sons, Diaz one daughter and one son. “Vacation’s over,” Sanders said.