Pirates get incomplete grade for 5-3 loss

Rockies score final five, including broken-bat home run

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DENVER -- This, most obviously, will not get it done.

The Pirates, looking for a sling shot out of the All-Star break, instead got some of everything and a lot of nothing to show for their 5-3 loss to the Colorado Rockies last night at Coors Field.

There was some pitching, but not enough: Paul Maholm dominated early but wound up charged with five runs in six innings, including Chris Iannetti's remarkable two-run, broken-bat blast that made the difference.

There was some offense, but not enough: The Pirates struck for three runs in the third but wound up laying six consecutive eggs and had one measly hit beyond the fourth.

Bottom line ...

  • Box score
  • Statistics
  • Standings
  • Today
    • Game: Pirates vs. Colorado Rockies, 9:05 p.m., Coors Field.
    • TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
    • Pitching: RHP Ian Snell (3-7, 5.92) vs. LHP Glendon Rusch (2-3, 6.25).
    • Key matchup: Jack Wilson has feasted off Rusch for years, going 16 for 36 -- a .444 average -- with a home run, two doubles, a triple and three walks.
    • Of note: The Pirates had six or more players hit 10 home runs by the All-Star break, a franchise first. The previous high was five, achieved in 1977 and two years ago.

"We just didn't get anything going after the early part of the game," manager John Russell said. "But give them credit, too."

That might be easier to do if the Rockies had not entered with the third-worst record in Major League Baseball, had they not been fresh off being swept in three games by the New York Mets while scoring two runs, and had they not been missing three-eighths of their everyday lineup to injury.

To be sure, with the clock ticking on whatever passes for realistic goals for these 2008 Pirates, these are games that have to be won.

If that does not happen soon, say, oh, tonight, it will not be long before images are rekindled of that 0-7 season-killing nosedive out of the All-Star break last summer.

"That can't happen again, and we're going to do everything we can to prevent that," center fielder Nate McLouth said.

The Pirates pounced on Ubaldo Jimenez for three runs in the third, McLouth scoring on a wild pitch and Adam LaRoche doubling in two more.

Things looked good at this point: Maholm had set down his first nine batters, three by swinging strikeout, and Jimenez already had a gaudy pitch count of 70.

Oh, well ...

Colorado scored twice in the fourth to snap a 25-inning scoreless drought, this on RBI hits by Jeff Baker and Iannetta.

Doubles by Baker and Garrett Atkins in the sixth tied the score. And the first pitch after Atkins' at-bat, a flat changeup to Iannetti, leaped off his bat and soared into the left-field seats even as the bat splintered.

"I snapped his bat on a first-pitch change, and he sends it 10 rows deep," Maholm said. "Nothing I can do about that."

Iannetti sounded equally surprised.

"Maybe I broke it on the single up the middle," he said of his RBI in the fourth. "With the maple bats, you can't always tell."

And there are those who wonder why players still use the maple, even with all the breakage.

Did Iannetti think he could homer with a broken bat?

"If you'd asked me before the game, I'd say no. But now, I've done it."

Meanwhile, Jimenez, a hard-throwing, 24-year-old, gave up nothing more than a single in his final four innings - just 35 pitches - to end up with seven.

"I just kept the ball down," Jimenez said. "I had one bad inning, but I didn't let it get to me."

Brian Fuentes recorded his 15th save with a sizzling, strike-out-the-side ninth, illustrating why he - and not Damaso Marte - might be the most attractive left-handed reliever on the trade market.

Maholm had been outstanding in his previous eight starts, going 4-0 with a 2.67 ERA that ranked eighth in Major League Baseball in that span. And he appeared on his way to another one.

What happened?

"First three innings, everything was down, and I worked ahead," Maholm said. "The next four, the ball kind of got up, and I missed some pitches. When that happens in this park, you're going to pay."

And what of his long troublesome lower back being iced afterward?

"Just precautionary. I felt fine."

The Pirates are 14-24 away from PNC Park this season.

Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at dkovacevic@post-gazette.com . And visit the new Pittsburgh Baseball Club blog, with news, views and reader commenting. First Published July 18, 2008 5:00 AM


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