Popick re-injured in GJ Rockies’ defeat

Grand Junction Rockies right fielder Ryan Garvey makes a diving catch in foul territory during the Rockies 14-6 loss to Idaho Falls on Friday. The game was delayed by rain, and Grand Junction struggle to find rhythm.

Situational hitting once again abandoned the Grand Junction Rockies on Friday night.

The pitching wasn’t sharp, either, and it all added up to another loss, 14-6 against Idaho Falls.

It dropped the Rockies to .500 (24-24), 3-7 in the second half.

Despite banging out 15 hits, Grand Junction left 14 men on base. Ten of those were in scoring position, including the bases loaded in the second inning before the game got out of hand, and again in the eighth.

“It was ugly from the start,” Grand Junction manager Anthony Sanders said. “Offensively we battled back, but again, pitching. It seems like everybody we bring in gets behind and leadoff guys are getting on, and it’s hard to play defense behind that.”

And to add injury to insult, left fielder Jeff Popick re-injured his right hamstring, which kept him out the first half of the season.

Popick strained the hamstring in his first game in Class A at Tri-City, and was assigned to Grand Junction. Here, Popick rehabbed for two months, finally being cleared to play this week.

He played five innings on Wednesday and was back in the lineup Friday. In the fifth inning, he drove a sharp double to right-center, but a couple of steps away from third, he grabbed the back of his right thigh as he hobbled to the bag.

“It’s a shame, because he’s been working his butt off to get back and obviously this is a little setback,” Sanders said. “Talking to (trainer John Duff), I don’t think it’s as bad as it was before, so we cross our fingers and hope he keeps working.”

Popick, a former All-American outfielder at Colorado Mesa, was scheduled to come out after the fifth inning.

Raimel Tapia replaced Popick, and hit a solo home run in the seventh.

Tapia is fighting a sore throat and ear ache, and Cole Norton has a sore arm and has been out of the lineup the past couple of weeks. Sanders said Norton is close to returning, but until he’s cleared, the Rockies are down to four outfielders.

“Guys are picking it up,” Sanders said. “(Miguel) Dilone’s bat is picking up and he’s playing a little bit of everywhere for us. We’re gonna find a way with somebody, regardless.”

Starting pitcher Peter Tago (2-4) gave up three runs in the first inning and couldn’t get out of the third, allowing seven runs on six hits.

The big hit was by leadoff man Humberto Arteaga, who drove a bases-loaded triple to right field as the Chukars (25-23, 6-4) built the lead to 10-0 after 2½ innings.

Grand Junction got the leadoff man on base in only three innings, and had a run going in the third, scoring three runs. After Ryan McMahon’s two-run triple, Popick got him home with a single deep in the hole at short.

Idaho Falls starter Luke Farrell (2-2), though, struck out Dilone, Ryan Garvey and Robbie Perkins to strand Popick at second after a wild pitch.

It was 10-3 at that point, not completely out of reach at Suplizio, but Idaho Falls scored three more in the fourth.

“We answer back with a few runs and then give them back right away,” Sanders said. “We’ve just got to get better.”

Nunez said the players are frustrated, but even down 10 runs in the ninth inning, the Rockies kept swinging.

“You can’t let any at-bat go to waste,” he said. “You never know in this ballpark. The game can turn around just like that. You saw they put up seven in that one inning.”

Dilone led off the ninth with a double, and with two outs, Terry McClure singled. Nunez then lined his triple into right field for two runs before Emerson Jimenez popped out.

“We just need a little more timely hitting. We’re getting guys on base, obviously,” Nunez said. “Maybe a couple of things go our way and we bust things open and score a couple of runs.”

Sanders is staying positive with the Rockies, keeping in mind that while it’s about development at the Rookie level, part of that is playing consistently.

“We’ve gotta stay positive with these young kids while we’re going through this,” he said. “We’ve got something at the end to play for, we know, but we’ve got to keep fighting and get through it.”

NOTE: Infielder Zach Osborne was promoted to Class A Asheville after the game.


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