DENVER -- The Pirates departed Coors Field Sunday en route to St. Louis to battle the Cardinals, their main division rival, after failing to gain any separation from them over the weekend.
A 3-2 loss completed a three-game sweep at the hands of the Colorado Rockies, who took advantage of Pirates mistakes. A balk set up one run, a throwing error another. That the Pirates scored seven runs total in the series didn't help.
"They pitched better than us, they hit better than us, they fielded better than us. You move on," manager Clint Hurdle said.
Three unintentional walks put a damper on an otherwise positive outing from starter Jeff Locke. He allowed two runs, one earned, in 52/3 innings.
"I think he found his spot again," Hurdle said. "He found his slot, his delivery held together. He just looked really, really good out there today for me."
Locke has walked at least three -- he walked one intentionally Sunday as well -- in four of his past five starts, all coming after the All-Star break. Locke's 65 walks are tied for the third most in the majors.
Bryan Morris (5-5) took the loss. He allowed the go-ahead RBI double to Nolan Arenado in the seventh.
The Pirates loaded the bases in the ninth against closer Rex Brothers, but could not score.
Locke's balk in the third helped the Rockies halve the Pirates' 2-0 lead. Charlie Blackmon stole second after being hit with a pitch. He took off for third, causing Locke to step off and throw to the bag. Pedro Alvarez tagged Blackmon out in plenty of time, but home plate umpire Bill Welke called a balk on Locke's motion and Blackmon was safe.
"He said when [Locke] stepped off he didn't clear the rubber," Hurdle said. "His foot was still pointed to first."
Hurdle argued the call. After Hurdle had pitching coach Ray Searage watch the replay of the call, he went to talk to Welke again before the start of the fourth.
"The looks we had, I don't think, showed that," Hurdle said. "We thought he made a clean move."
Locke had not yet seen the replay after the game, but didn't think he balked.
"I stepped off," Locke said. "I think maybe because I took a little shuffle and threw to third, maybe it looked like that's when he thought I dislodged my foot from the rubber, but at the same time he's got a tough angle."
DJ LeMahieu took advantage of the balk and scored Blackmon on a sacrifice fly. The Rockies scored their first run without recording a hit through three innings.
"That's not the first time this season I've been down -- runs and no hits -- because the walks will always find a way to hurt you," Locke said.
Locke preserved the lead in the fifth, compensating for what could have been a costly error by Clint Barmes. Dexter Fowler grounded to short with one out and Blackmon on first. The Pirates had a shot at an inning-ending double play, but the ball slid under Barmes' glove and off his foot into the outfield.
Locke then struck out LeMahieu with men on second and third using a curveball in the dirt. He fell behind Troy Tulowitzki, 3-0, and intentionally walked him with first base open, loading the bases for Wilin Rosario. Rosario grounded out and Locke escaped with the lead.
He wasn't so lucky in the sixth. Three consecutive batters reached base, but two fielder's choices ensured only one, Yorvit Torrealba, was on first when Blackmon batted with two outs. Garrett Jones dived for Blackmon's grounder but couldn't corral it, and the Rockies had two on base.
Rockies manager Walt Weiss pinch-hit Corey Dickerson for starting pitcher Chad Bettis. Hurdle removed Locke in favor of Tony Watson. Dickerson grounded to third, but Alvarez threw the ball into the stands. Torrealba scored and the Rockies tied the score at 2-2.
"I've got to make that play," Alvarez said. "I didn't set my feet properly. It's a play that's got to be made."
Alvarez started the scoring in the second. He roped the first pitch he saw from Bettis into the bullpen in right-center for his 28th home run. Andrew McCutchen's infield single scored another run in the third.
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published August 11, 2013 11:00 PM