Rockies rough up Liriano, Pirates


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DENVER -- In Francisco Liriano's first career start at Coors Field, the Colorado Rockies welcomed him in style.

True to the park's offense-friendly history, the Rockies clobbered Liriano and the Pirates all over the field Friday night in a 10-1 loss. They sent nine batters to the plate in each of the first two innings and had 16 hits. The loss ended the Pirates' five-game winning streak.

Liriano (12-5) entered the game with a 1.69 ERA in the first inning of his 16 starts this season. In his shortest outing of the season, Liriano allowed 12 hits and 10 runs, both career highs, in 21/3 innings and needed 73 pitches to do so. Most of the hits were smoked. At one point, after yet another RBI hit, Liriano lifted his hands in frustration.

"Just one of those days," Liriano said. "I couldn't hit my spot. No matter what I threw, they were hitting it."

Liriano allowed only eight runs in five starts in July. He entered the game with a 2.02 ERA and 106 strikeouts in 102 2/3 innings. His ERA climbed to 2.83.

Liriano said he felt fine physically, but noticed his pitches weren't moving like they usually do. Breaking pitches don't break as much in the thin air at Coors Field, which features a row of purple seats in the upper deck that is 5,280 feet -- or 1 mile -- above sea level.

"It's different here than other places," Liriano said. "My slider wasn't that sharp and my two-seam sinker wasn't moving at all. Just trying to go two-seamer away, stayed right down the middle, straight up."

The outing was a rarity for the Pirates, whose starting pitchers led the majors with a 3.22 ERA entering the game. The previous time a Pirates starter allowed this many runs was May 2, 2012, when the St. Louis Cardinals saddled A.J. Burnett with 12 runs on 12 hits in 22/3 innings at Busch Stadium.

The game reached the point that Josh Harrison took over as pitcher with two outs in the eighth, the first Pirates position player to do so since Abraham Nunez in 2004.

The Rockies, who scored a combined three runs in three games against the New York Mets earlier this week, had 11 hits in the first two innings. They also took advantage of Liriano's delivery from the stretch, stealing two bases on great jumps with no chance for Russell Martin to throw them out.

"I think the first guy just shortened his lead and went first pitch, which is not uncommon against some left-handed pitchers," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

"When you're pitching as well as he is, they're probably looking for things and digging extra. With [Michael] Cuddyer, he's a smart guy, he might have thought he picked up on something."

Of the nine batters who came to the plate for Colorado in the first, seven reached base and four scored.

DJ LeMahieu started with a one-out single and Troy Tulowitzki walked. Cuddyer's grounder up the middle scored a run, and Wilin Rosario's double to the right-field wall scored two more.

Todd Helton bounced another RBI grounder up the middle for a single. Pedro Alvarez got a glove on Nolan Arenado's line drive, but couldn't secure it, and the play was ruled a hit. Charlie Culberson beat out a double-play attempt on a ground ball, and it was not until Jorge De La Rosa flied out to left that the Pirates escaped the inning.

Dexter Fowler singled to lead off the second and took second on an error. He went to third on a fly ball and scored on Cuddyer's two-out single. Rosario then hit a two-run home run to left, his 16th. Helton blooped a single ahead of Arenado's RBI double, and Culberson drove home Arenado. By the time De La Rosa grounded back to the mound, Liriano had recorded six outs against 18 batters. The Pirates, meanwhile, went 2 for 10 with runners in scoring position and left 12 runners on base.

"The first two innings, we leave on six," Hurdle said. "They find a way. They got two outs, they send five more hitters to the plate in the second inning."

Hurdle said the Pirates would check Liriano's stretch delivery for tells, but other than that would leave the outing behind.

"Just flush it," Hurdle said he told Liriano. "Flush it and move on."

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Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG.


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