McLouth, Rivas set tone atop order; five relievers put up zeroes
July 30, 2008 8:00 AM
Pirates Jack Wilson can't quite come up with a ground ball hit by Colorado's Willy Taveras in the first inning.
Nate McLouth begins the Pirates' rally, scoring in the third inning.
Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit stretches out to tag out Colorado's Ian Stewart near third base to end the sixth inning last night at PNC Park.
By Dejan Kovacevic Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
If the formula for the Pirates' 6-4 upending of the Colorado Rockies last night looked familiar to the 17,507 at PNC Park, there was quite the reason: They now have won 50 games, and more of those have come by comebacks -- 26 -- than not.
"Really?" catcher Ryan Doumit said. "Cool."
Cool has something to do with it, no doubt, but there is more.
In this one, it was Yoslan Herrera struggling to a 4-0 deficit through three innings before he and five relievers gave up nothing else. And it was the National League's No. 3 offense again making that count.
Game: Pirates vs. Colorado Rockies, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
TV/Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
Pitching: LHP Zach Duke (4-8, 5.04) vs. RHP Aaron Cook (13-6, 3.46).
Key matchup: Get Cook early. The Pirates scored three times off him in the first inning July 20 in Denver, and Cook conceded just one single over his next six innings.
Of note: Opponents are batting .306 off the Pirates' starting pitchers and have scored 397 runs, each figure the worst in Major League Baseball.
The driving force, without question, was the top two in the order.
Nate McLouth, fresh off bouncing a ball into the Allegheny River the previous night in another multiple-run comeback against Colorado, doubled, put down a bunt single, walked, scored two runs and made an over-the-shoulder catch on Garrett Atkins' third-inning laser bound for the track in center, leaping to reel it in at the last moment.
And Luis Rivas, filling in for injured Freddy Sanchez at No. 2, singled, doubled and tripled for three RBIs.
"The guys who beat us are the top two in their order," Colorado manager Clint Hurdle said. "They made it all happen."
Hurdle, who managed McLouth in the All-Star Game earlier this month, sounded as if he has seen quite enough of him.
"He's not a big guy, but he plays big," Hurdle said. "That catch he made, not many guys make that. He's been Mickey Mantle against us, with that ball in the river, and now he was Willie Mays. I believed in Nate McLouth before this, you know. I've seen him play. But he's impressed me even more."
Rivas has impressed, too, on a far smaller scale and generally just on those rare occasions when he gets his name on the lineup: His overall average is .257, but .303 with 20 RBIs in his 26 starts.
"When Luis has been called upon to start, he's done a great job," manager John Russell said.
"I don't know why," Rivas said, smiling. "I guess that's a good thing, right?"
Is it a good thing that the Pirates have been forced to rally so often?
"Well, fortunately and unfortunately, we've done it enough that it's a mentality that's set in," hitting coach Don Long said. "Anytime you do that, you know you can. It grows. There's no reason to stop or lay down. We've learned how to play that way, and it's not just the hitters. The pitchers keep us there like the bullpen did tonight, and even Herrera hung in there pretty good after a rough start."
"We've been telling each other as pitchers all year that, if you give our offense a chance, they'll find a way to get it done," reliever John Grabow said.
Colorado had pounded Herrera for eight runs in 1 2/3 innings July 19 in Denver, part of the Rockies' four-game sweep there, and it looked as if this would be a sequel with five hits and two walks through three innings. But Herrera allowed just one more hit in lasting five-plus.
"He was missing his spots early," Russell said. "But he started throwing better, especially with his fastball."
Newcomer Jason Davis stranded two of Herrera's runners in the sixth and wound up with the victory. Grabow worked the seventh, Denny Bautista and Sean Burnett shared the eighth, and Tyler Yates blew through the top of the Rockies' order -- strikeout of Willy Taveras and groundouts by Jeff Baker and Matt Holliday -- for his first save.
Yates the closer?
Not so fast: Russell does not sound close to naming someone to replace injured Matt Capps or departed Damaso Marte.
"Tyler was the freshest of everyone since he hadn't pitched for three days," Russell said. "We'll keep looking."
"Matt Capps is our closer," Yates said. "You can only have one closer at a time. I just took the ball when I was called."
Meanwhile, the offense chipped away for one in the third when Rivas' single followed McLouth's double, two in the fifth on Rivas' triple to right-center, and two more in the sixth to take the 5-4 lead on hits by Jason Bay and Doug Mientkiewicz and a sacrifice fly by Chris Gomez.
Bay's RBI single scoring Rivas in the seventh brought insurance.
Zach Duke will take on Colorado ace Aaron Cook in the finale, eyeing a sweep that would exact thick revenge for the four exasperating losses in Denver: The Rockies had won nine of 10 coming into Pittsburgh and, with the West Division leaders hovering around .500, had begun to fancy themselves contenders again.