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Coors Field playing like old self

| Sunday, July 15, 2012, 7:02 p.m.
ASSOCIATED PRESS
With a runs rating of 1.522, according to ESPN.com, Coors Field in Denver is the most hitter-friendly park in the majors, well ahead of runners-up Chase Field in Phoenix (1.392) and Miller Park in Milwaukee (1.390). With a rating of 0.691, PNC Park ranks third on the list of pitcher-friendly ballyards. AP

MILWAUKEE — Coors Field is playing more like a bandbox again. It will be interesting to see how that plays out for the Pirates, who on Monday open a three-game road series against the Colorado Rockies.

With a runs rating of 1.522, according to ESPN.com, Coors is the most hitter-friendly park in the majors, well ahead of runners-up Chase Field in Phoenix (1.392) and Miller Park in Milwaukee (1.390). With a rating of 0.691, PNC Park ranks third on the list of pitcher-friendly ballyards.

Manager Clint Hurdle recently spoke with Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca, who said Coors Field is yielding homers the way it did before a humidor was installed to negate the altitude effect and “normalize” balls.

“Nobody can say why,” Hurdle said. “Whether it's the summer, the (wildfires), the humidity. Whatever it is, it's playing hot, and it has spiked the run totals dramatically and provided more challenges (for pitchers).”

That could be good news for the Pirates, who have boosted their team batting average by 21 points since June 15. They also are scoring nearly a full run per game more than a month ago.

• Right-hander A.J. Burnett (10-3) had his nine-decision win streak snapped Sunday. Burnett nursed a one-run lead until the sixth, when the Brewers came up with four runs. “That's probably the best stuff I've had in a long time,” said Burnett, who gave up eight hits and struck out seven in seven innings. “They found some holes. ... Things happen.”

• Second baseman Neil Walker was shaken up in the sixth when he collided with Aramis Ramirez. Ramirez slid into Walker's ankle, and his upper torso smashed into Walker's left forearm. “I tried to get around him, but I couldn't do it,” Walker said. “Fortunately I didn't jam my wrist.” Walker was checked out on the field by the team trainer and stayed in the game.

• Casey McGehee's natural position is third base, but Hurdle considers him “our best defensive player” at first. McGehee ranks fourth among National League first basemen with a .996 fielding percentage. Overall, Pirates first basemen have a .995 fielding percentage, putting them second in the NL and ninth-best in the majors.

• Shortstop Jordy Mercer made his third career start and went 1 for 3. It was his first start since June 1 (also in Milwaukee) and his first since being recalled July 5 from Triple-A. “Jordy is our defensive (backup),” Hurdle said. “Josh Harrison would be more of our offensive (backup).”

— Rob Biertempfel

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