Jason Grilli's quality season rattled Monday night vs. Rockies
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DENVER - Pirates setup man Jason Grilli has experienced more success this season than in any other year of his major league career. But on Monday, his stellar season reached its lowest point when he let a game slip away after an improbable Pirates rally.
He slouched in his clubhouse chair after a 5-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field, an ice pack wrapped around his shoulder as his eyes glazed over. It was a brief moment he took to process the sting of the setback. He vowed he would not let the effects linger.
"I can't let this affect me," Grilli said. "It's not going to affect me. Things have been going so good. I'm going to bounce back."
After Pedro Alvarez tied the score with a three-run homer in the top of the ninth, Grilli emerged in a tie game for only the sixth time this season. He surrendered two hits and a sacrifice fly to Dexter Fowler that gave the Rockies a walk-off win.
The velocity on Grilli's fastball was a bit lower than his season average - he topped at 93 mph Monday while he typically hits between 94 and 95 Additionally, Grilli said he left a few pitches elevated, and Colorado hitters punished him for it.
"I just didn't have my good stuff, I guess," he said.
When Alvarez cracked his home run off Rex Brothers on Monday night, Rockies manager Jim Tracy was reminded a bit of the night Alvarez beat Colorado with a late-inning blast.
On Aug. 7, 2010, Alvarez took an 0-1 sinker from Huston Street into the right-field seats, a three-run homer that gave the Pirates an 8-7 victory in the 10th inning.
"The Clemente Wall couldn't hold it," Tracy said. "It was a little bit higher."
Street threw Alvarez two sinkers - the first, a bit off the plate, was fouled off. The second one stayed over the plate, and it never really sunk.
"It was an 'oh no' out of the hand for me, in the back of my mind," Tracy said.
Alvarez's three-run homer Monday tied the score, but Tracy said Brothers' fastball was a much better pitch, if only a little elevated in the strike zone.
"He hit the hell out of it," Tracy said. "He really, really did."
With Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto out at least three weeks after having surgery Tuesday for a torn meniscus, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said there is no joy in seeing a competitor succumb to injury, even if it helps his team's chances in a tight division race.
"I feel bad for any player that gets hurt," Hurdle said. "You never know what's around the corner for each team - our team or anybody's team."
Votto, the 2010 National League MVP, is one of the top candidates for the honor this season, along with Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen.
Including his start in right field Tuesday night, Drew Sutton has made 26 of his 102 major league appearances as an outfielder - 17 of which have come for the Pirates.
"We've played him probably more than I anticipated playing him coming in," Hurdle said.
Hurdle said he anticipates using Sutton off the bench more often as the season progresses. Though Sutton has some experience at shortstop, Hurdle said Jordy Mercer will be his go-to backup as long as he is on the 25-man roster.
First Published July 18, 2012 12:00 am