Rockies rock Capps in ninth to beat Pirates, 3-1
The Pirates' Matt Capps hangs his head after giving up a two-run homer to the Rockies' Brad Hawpe in the ninth inning.
The Pirates' Nyjer Morgan pulls in a fly ball hit by the Rockies' Chris Iannetta in the second inning last night.
The Pirates' Nate McLouth slides safely into home plate against Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta in the sixth inning last night.
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The Pirates had Colorado right where they wanted it. They had a one-run lead against a team that lost eight of its previous nine games decided by that scant margin. They had the ball in the heat-throwing right hand of Matt Capps, two nights before having closed out his first save since April 22 and apparently all healed from that bone bruise in his right, pitching elbow. They had a chance at a third victory in four games.
They had all that, and they lost it.
"Got to the inning we wanted to close it out," manager John Russell said softly afterward. "Couldn't get it done."
Capps yielded five hits -- as many as starter Paul Maholm permitted in seven innings -- and three runs and one game-turning Brad Hawpe homer as that one-run Pirates lead evaporated into a 3-1 Rockies triumph before 17,179 last night in PNC Park.
It was the Pirates' second consecutive loss, their 10th in their past 12 games, 14th in 17 and 15 in 20.
It was Capps' second blown save of the season and the bullpen's sixth consecutive loss.
It was the second Pirates loss when leading after the eighth inning in 15 such games this season. A year ago, they were a whopping 52-2 in such cases. Heck, they yielded only 40 ninth-inning runs a year ago.
Capps (0-3) sat alone in the clubhouse afterward, staring into his locker and staring nowhere at the same time.
Were his fastballs not diving or darting?
"You can't see the movement when you throw it," he said with a shrug.
Was it his elbow?
"I feel fine," he said.
Was it his velocity?
"I didn't notice that, either."
With the Pirates owning a tenuous, 1-0 lead low-lighted once again by a lack of timely hitting -- they went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position a night after they were 1 for 9 -- Colorado opened the ninth by sending pinch-hitter Ian Stewart to the plate. He fouled off a 91-mph Capps four-seam fastball and then smacked a 92-mph one onto the left-field warning track and into the seats, a ground-rule double to lead off.
Facing a 1-1 count after two 93 mph four-seamers, Brad Hawpe then sent one of the 94 mph variety into the center field seats for a two-run homer, a 2-1 Rockies lead and his sixth homer of the season.
It only added salt to the already open wound when Ryan Spilborghs -- he of the home run-saving catch off Jack Wilson over the left-field fence in the third inning -- singled on an 81 mph Capps slider and scored two outs later when pinch-batter Matt Murton singled on an 84 mph slider.
Colorado upped its record to 2-8 in one-run games -- and two in a row -- when Huston Street struck out Robinzon Diaz, pinch-hitter Ramon Vazquez and Wilson in the ninth for his fifth save.
The Pirates have lost often lately, lost painfully.
Yet this seemed to leave a deeper impression.
It hurt, Wilson said, "the same as all the rest, I guess. This early in the season, you got to put it behind you. We just took a series from a first-place team [St. Louis, two games to one]. We need to sleep this one off. Get it off our chest."
That 1-0 lead came in the sixth. With two outs, Nate McLouth lined a single into right field. He then stole second. McLouth scored on Craig Monroe's sharp single to left, his first RBI in 13 at-bats since April 27.
Colorado left-handed starter Jorge De La Rosa otherwise essentially manhandled the Pirates, striking out 10 in seven innings.
He was lifted for pinch-hitter Seth Smith in the eighth, and Smith had a foot in what appeared to be the game-changing play -- until Capps' ninth. He was called out on appeal after running across home plate after a Troy Tulowitzki flyout to Nyjer Morgan in left.
"I turned to see if he had tagged to go, and he was already a step or two off the bag," Wilson said. "I thought, 'Wow, he's really fast.' I didn't even think to appeal."
Pirates coaches and players in the dugout noticed and yelled to the field about it. The double play went from Morgan to Freddy Sanchez to Wilson, who stepped on third.
As for Capps, Russell said, "He left some balls up, obviously. He paid for it. He needs to get back on track. He's got to start hitting his spots better. Keep the ball down. Hopefully, it's a little rut he's in. Keep sending him out, see if he can get his command more sharp. We're used to him being so ..." unlike last night.
Game: Pirates vs. Colorado Rockies, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
Pitching: RHP Ian Snell (1-5, 4.50) vs. RHP Aaron Cook (2-1, 5.02)
Key matchup: Colorado's Brad Hawpe is 5 for 9 with two home runs and three walks vs. Snell.
Of note: Nyjer Morgan's .387 on-base percentage ranks third among Major League Baseball's leadoff men.
First Published May 16, 2009 12:00 am