Idaho Falls Manager Jim Procopio had never, despite many years in baseball, seen the Chicken perform. He enjoyed the show Monday night at Derks. But only at passing glance.
An act he liked even better was staged by his own Braves, who came up with their best overall game to stop the Trappers' four-game win streak.The Braves outdid the Trappers 8-4, leading from the second inning on and pecking out 12 hits to turn 9,608 fans impatient enough to start leaving in the eighth.
Procopio laughed that he didn't dare take his eyes off his players to sneak peaks at the Chicken. "No way; not with this bunch," he said. Idaho Falls, young and at times aggressive to a fault, has recently blown leads of 8-2 and 6-0.
Procopio held a team meeting Sunday after a six-error, 8-3 loss to the Trappers, its second six-error game in a row; his players held a private meeting prior to Monday's game. "Whatever they decided, it worked," he said.
The Braves put together "good starting pitching, good relief pitching, good offense and good defense," to make up their best game, Procopio said.
"It was one of the best I've seen them play all-around," agreed Trapper Manager Barry Moss, whose team has lost three of the last four games against the Pioneer League's second-to-last-place team. "Their pitching really did the job," he added, noting that the Trappers tried to work counts to get baserunners on, but Brave pitchers Mark Eskins and Mark Shrewsbury threw strikes.
The Trappers had 10 hits, including Mando Verdugo's fifth homer in a one-run fourth and Randy Moore's double in the second, but three times they had runners at third base and couldn't score them.
And, worse, they helped the Braves several times. "We kept their innings going," Moss said, guessing that the Trappers gave them five baserunners that should have been outs. The Traps had four errors and a couple of mistakes.
"I felt bad for (starting pitcher Myron) Gardner. He should have been getting more support," Moss said.
Gardner did groove a pitch to Steve Lopez for a solo home run to lead off the Braves' three-run second. "Lopez's homer was definitely a key factor in getting things started," said Procopio.
And Gardner walked Don Campbell following Lopez, then let Marco Paddy single. Campbell scored on a double-play, and Keith LeClair, LaMar Hall and Daryl Blanks singled in order for the third run. The Trappers expertly played the delayed double steal, throwing out Hall at home to get out of the inning.
But, after a Greg Ehmig single, Moore double, Verdugo groundout and Tommy Boyce single cut the lead to 3-2, things turned sour for the Traps and Gardner.
To start the third, Moore got a poor jump on a drive to the wall by BYU's Gary Schoonover, then missed the cutoff man with his throw while Schoonover trotted to a triple. At least, that's how Moss saw it. "That was the play I didn't like," Moss said. "It should have been caught, and with a
better relay - we had two chances."
Lopez walked and Campbell singled for one run and Paddy singled for a second. The double steal worked this time, Campbell going to third, then home as catcher Marty Peralta's throw went into left field.
Blaine Reber came in for Gardner in the fourth and was hit by the first three men he faced. One run was legitimate. The other, making the score 8-2, was helped when Lopez reached base on a dropped third strike - the first of two times it happpened in the game to backup catcher Peralta.
Lopez should have been the second out, which meant that when Blanks crossed home on a groundout, the run wouldn't have counted - except the error meant there were only two out.
After that, Reber pitched well for a couple of innings, Sean Johnson had a good two and Michael Gibbons struck out two of the three he faced in the ninth, but the Trappers had nothing going offensively until three ninth-inning singles pushed across the final run.
Moss, happy for little things, got confidence-building work for the bullpen as the Traps leave for a seven-game trip to Medicine Hat and Helena. They open at the Hat Wednesday night.