Gene Collier: Rocky win opens 2nd half



There wasn't a lot of evident gratitude Friday night on the part of the Pirates for this soft assignment they have been handed to start baseball's so-called second half, namely a weekend tickle fight with Colorado Rockies

The Rockies, along with the San Diego Padres and the Arizona Diamondbacks, comprise what is irredeemably the Mild, Mild West, located far south in the National League West Division standings from Los Angeles and San Francisco.

But after nearly four hours that included a combined four errors, 17 strikeouts, two unearned runs, a bases-loaded beaning and some perfectly ridiculous baserunning and outfield play, it was clear we were not looking at a good team and a bad team.

We were looking more at two of a kind.

This was a mutual bungle-fest that Clint Hurdle's team couldn't avoid winning, so they took it with serious coaxing.

The Pirates have not lost a series to an NL West team this season, but showed no real interest in sustaining that success for most of the first game of this series, particularly if it was going to require them to catch the baseball, throw it correctly or run the bases in a safe and orderly fashion.

By notable contrast, the Rockies appeared earnest, eagerly demonstrating why no team in the league wins as infrequently as they do. Their first trick was rapping three double-play balls in the first two innings, which is merely impossible, but it worked because the Pirates declined two of them.

Jordy Mercer kicked the first one away with one out in the second, then juggled a second one long enough to get only a forceout as Colorado's Charlie Culberson crossed the plate with an unearned run.

As for Pirates hitters, they showed no inclination toward solving the mysteries of the veteran left-hander Jorge De La Rosa, who wandered through six innings that would have been spotless had not Gregory Polanco diverted briefly from an 0-for-8 and 1-for-15 slide with a dribbler off the mound for a hit, which Starling Marte followed with a double inside the bag that left fielder Corey Dickerson played into a tying triple.

Marte didn't see it that way, instead running through third base coach Nick Leyva's stop sign into the third out of the inning at home. There was no blaming Leyva. He couldn't have been more obvious had he been wielding the standard PennDOT torture instrument that pivots to read "STOP" and "SLOW" depending on the flow and lack thereof.

Marte would make up for that in the most difficult way possible, but not until the obligatory Pedro Alvarez throwing error, coming as it did with two out in the sixth, and leading two batters later to DJ LeMahieu's RBI single to right for a 2-1 Colorado lead.

Alvarez has 21 errors, more than twice as many errors as doubles (10), and rightly got himself yanked by the manager for defensive purposes in the seventh inning of a tied game in a pennant race.

There is not a lot of interpretation necessary on that.

On a couple of soft singles and a Rockies throwing error in the seventh, the fourth error of the night, the Pirates loaded the bases for Marte, which made Colorado manager Walt Weiss summon right-hander Adam Ottavino.

Ottavino promptly threw strike one and strike two, and his third pitch was a strike, too; it struck Marte right on the 'P' of his batting helmet, driving him flat into the dirt of the batters box for a couple minutes of examination.

Marte stayed in the game, Mercer came in from third to tie the score, and Ottavino was unofficially credited with an RBI -- a run beaned in.

As the game wore into the eighth without either team able to extricate itself from the other, it at least maintained a kind of slapstick vibe the sellout crowd had grown to appreciate. While striking out against Tony Watson, the fourth Pirates pitcher, Culberson flung his bat over the Pirates dugout and the entire first section of fans, who have come to consider themselves safe from flying objects once Alvarez has left the game.

Thus it was left to Travis Snider, hitting in Alvarez's seventh spot when it came around in the eighth, to rip a 2-2 pitch from Matt Belisle to right to snap that 2-2 tie, just as it was left to Josh Harrison, playing the final innings at Alvarez's third base position, to lift a sacrifice fly to center to make it 4-2.

Gene Collier: gcollier@post-gazette.com.


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