Pirates no match for rolling Rockies, 7-3
Pirates pitcher Ross Ohlendorf applies a late tag as the Rockies' Dexter Fowler scores on a passed ball in the first inning.
Pirates' shortstop Jack Wilson follows the flight of his solo home run against the Rockies in the seventh inning of last night's game.
Pirates manager John Russell, left, chats with former Pirates manager and current manager of the Rockies, Jim Tracy, before a last night's game. Tracy, who managed the Pirates for two seasons, was facing his former team for the first time since taking over as the manager of the Rockies.
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DENVER -- A few hours before first pitch, Colorado manager Jim Tracy was pondering all that is rolling along so remarkably well for his Rockies.
"When you win as many games as we have over this period of time, you have to beat some tough teams, win some tough games," he said, smiling in the home dugout. "Look at these teams we've seen: St. Louis, Milwaukee, Seattle, Tampa Bay..."
His former team, it is safe to say, hardly fit the pattern last night at Coors Field, the Pirates falling hard to Colorado, 7-3.
Ross Ohlendorf was hit hard for six runs in five innings. The feast-or-famine offense stayed stuck in famine mode, with a second starter nearly going the distance against them in as many days, Jason Marquis lasting 8 2/3. Even the defense, usually a strong suit for the visitors, paled next to that of Colorado.
The only part of the pattern that held firm: The Rockies won, for the 14th time in 15 games, 16th in 21 games since Tracy took over for Clint Hurdle May 29.
Pirates manager John Russell, sounding increasingly irked by the offense with each passing day, was asked by a Denver radio reporter if he found it "frustrating" to see the sinker-baller Marquis get 19 ground-ball outs.
"No, it was a pleasure," Russell responded sarcastically. "It really was."
Turning serious, he continued, "Yeah, it's frustrating. We've been shut down a lot."
The Rockies, of course, have not, and they kept that up: Of the nine hits Ohlendorf allowed, five went for extra bases, including a Troy Tulowitzki home run to lead off the second and Brad Hawpe's two-run shot in the fifth that made it 6-0.
Tulowitzki's came on a clear mistake pitch, a meaty fastball on a 1-2 count, but Hawpe managed to power a perfectly placed changeup on the outer corner beyond the 415-foot mark in center.
"The first one was bad," Ohlendorf said. "But I thought the second was OK."
He did not appear to feel that way about his start as a whole, though, especially following quality starts against the Atlanta Braves and Detroit Tigers.
• Game: Pirates vs. Colorado Rockies, 8:10 p.m., Coors Field.
• TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
• Pitching: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
• Key matchup: Avoid Colorado closer Huston Street. The six players on the Pirates' roster who have faced him are a combined 1 for 13 with six strikeouts, led by Eric Hinske's 0 for 6.
• Of note: By going the first 65 games without an outfield error, a streak that ended Thursday in Minneapolis, the Pirates became the first to do so since the 1998 Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who lasted 71 games.
"I really thought I was turning some things around, so to go out and have my worst outing of the year was tough," Ohlendorf said. "I was up too much in the zone, threw too many hittable pitches."
"In this park, you can't pitch up," Russell said.
That is because Coors generally is friendly to hitters, though that was not evident from the Pirates: A day after avoiding a Nick Blackburn shutout once down to the final out in Minnesota, they mustered six hits off Marquis, including Jack Wilson's home run in the seventh that broke up this shutout, and strung together precious little until a couple of oh-by-the-way runs in the ninth.
"He pitched well, kept the ball down," Wilson said of Marquis.
Perhaps most striking within the Pirates' offense of late is that Nyjer Morgan has batted .175 in 14 games since being dropped to second in the order to accommodate Andrew McCutchen. At leadoff, Morgan batted .275 and, especially early in the year, had begun to look like a legitimate catalyst.
Did the drop deflate him?
"No way," Morgan said. "With Cutch up there, it's like we have two leadoff guys. I'm just not getting them to fall right now. I'm not striking out. I'm putting it in play. Just isn't falling."
He went 0 for 4 with a hit batsman last night.
The lone bright spot -- and this is becoming common -- was McCutchen, with a triple, double and RBI in five at-bats, raising his average to .338.
Defensively, catcher Robinzon Diaz's passed ball -- his sixth in just 22 games behind the plate -- allowed Dexter Fowler to sprint home for Colorado's first run in the opening inning. And Delwyn Young's error in right -- the second in the outfield after none in the first 65 games -- led to the Rockies' fourth run in the fifth.
First Published June 20, 2009 12:37 am