Morton, West Coast swing get off to rocky start


DENVER -- The Pirates did not stick to the script Friday night.

A week after mounting three consecutive comebacks against the Colorado Rockies at PNC Park, the they were knocked off, 8-1, at Coors Field to open a 10-game West Coast swing.

The Rockies led, 1-0, early, but busted open the game with a jarring, seven-run seventh inning.

Charlie Morton gave up a run on back-to-back doubles to open the inning, but the Rockies feasted on reliever Ernesto Frieri to run away with it.

"A big left turn. A hanging breaking ball for a double, an elevated sinker for another extra-base hit and a little ground ball through the left side chased Charlie," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Frieri came in, he's done a good job for us, was heading in a good direction, just wasn't able to quite execute the pitches he needed to. They piled up seven on us."

Frieri gave up four earned runs on three hits, including a bases-clearing double by Josh Rutledge and a two-run home run by Carlos Gonzalez.

Hurdle said the decision to go to him was based on his success with inherited runners in his past few outings.

"Down, 3-0, he's pitched twice with inherited runners and gotten out of both jams twice when he had done it," said Hurdle.

The Pirates were in position to gain a bit of ground in the National League Central Division with Milwaukee, St. Louis and Cincinnati each losing Friday, but dropped to 54-48 instead.

Jordy Mercer drove in a ninth-inning run with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to avoid the shutout, then after another walk, the bases were loaded again but Gregory Polanco grounded out to end the game.

The Pirates mounted few threats with Rockies left-hander Brett Anderson on the mound, despite being at hitter-friendly Coors Field.

"He keeps you off balance. He does," Mercer said. "He mixes well. He throws a lot of strikes so you've got to be ready to hit. We had some chances, we did, just didn't get a couple big hits."

Anderson was cruising along through 61/3 innings of two-hit ball when he walked Russell Martin and was removed after a visit by the trainer.

Enter reliever Tommy Kahnle, who got Mercer to fly out to left field before striking out Pedro Alvarez. Alvarez entered the game to pinch-hit for Brent Morel.

Anderson finished his outing at 102 pitches, giving up just the two hits. He walked four and struck out one.

"I'm glad we don't have to see him anymore. He's been as effective as any pitcher we've seen this season," Hurdle said. "We've seen him back-to-back, close, good glove-side command, very good mix of pitches ... all played, very effective."

Morton was strong through six. He finished his outing giving up seven hits and four earned runs. He walked one and struck out three.

"I hung a curveball and left a sinker right down the middle," Morton said. "Those two pitches right there."

The Pirates did little in terms of run support for Morton.

Martin was the only player to reach base through the first four innings, drawing a two-out walk in the second before being stranded.

Polanco got his first taste of Coors Field when D.J. LeMahieu tripled off Morton to the corner in right in the third. The ball got there quickly then caromed toward center. Polanco turned to scramble for it as LeMahieu reached third. He then scored on a two-out double by Rutledge.

The Pirates' best shot with Anderson still on the mound came when Neil Walker singled to open the fifth and Martin followed with a walk. Jordy Mercer hit into a 5-6-3 double play that was nearly a triple play. A challenge -- which took three minutes, 16 seconds -- confirmed that Martin was safe at second when LeMahieu was pulled off the bag because of the throw.

"I hit it good, but right at him," Mercer said. "I thought he might go across, didn't think he'd go to second but he did. What do you do, right?"

Anderson held the Pirates to one run on four hits through seven innings a week ago at PNC Park.

Jenn Menendez and Twitter @JennMenendez.

First Published July 26, 2014 1:07 AM

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