Rockies' 7-run 7th-inning dooms Pirates in 8-1 loss
DENVER — The game still was within reach when Clint Hurdle motioned with his right hand to the visitors' bullpen at Coors Field in the seventh inning Friday.
Ernesto Frieri sprang from the right-center field bullpen and into the mile-high air of Denver.
Events then quickly turned sour for the Pirates in an 8-1 loss to the Rockies.
Frieri's struggles continued Friday. Entering the game with the Pirates down two runs, the right-handed reliever allowed a bases-loaded double to Josh Rutledge and two-run homer to Carlos Gonzalez in the seventh. The Rockies scored seven runs in the inning to blow the game open.
“We're down three-nothing. He's pitched twice with inherited runners and got out of both jams,” Hurdle said. “We felt we did what we needed to, being down three-nothing, to finish the inning off. It didn't work. That's on me.”
When the Pirates acquired Frieri for Jason Grilli last month, Frieri's high strikeout rate and low walk rate suggested he had been unlucky to a degree and might benefit from a change of scenery.
Instead, Frieri has been even worse in the National League. His ERA rose to 7.45 after allowing four runs in two-thirds of an inning. He's thrown too many flat fastballs over the plate. Frieri has allowed 10 runs, all earned, in 72⁄3 innings with the Pirates. Hurdle noted Frieri had strung together several scoreless outings.
Entering the seventh, Pirates ground-ball specialist Charlie Morton had allowed one run in the first six innings.
Morton has been something of a two-pitch pitcher this season — a sinker-curveball pitcher — but perhaps because of the thin air of Coors Field, he threw more split-changes and fewer curveballs.
Sometimes they worked, like the splitter out of the zone against Gonzalez in the first inning for a swinging strikeout. Sometimes they didn't, like when Rutledge slashed one into right field to score DJ LeMahieu in the third.
“I thought it was a pretty good pitch for me,” Morton said.
That was all the scoring against Morton until the seventh.
Morton allowed back-to-back doubles, and Wilin Rosario drove in Ben Paulsen to give the Rockies a 2-0 lead. With runners on the corners, Hurdle called for Frieri.
Frieri allowed a bouncer to Drew Stubbs that cleared third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who mistimed his jump. Alvarez entered in the top half of the inning as a pinch hitter. Hurdle had Frieri intentionally walk Charlie Blackmon to load the bases with no outs.
The game then quickly got away from the Pirates. Down 3-0, Rutledge's double cleared the bases and Gonzalez lined a homer to right.
Hurdle was asked why he went with an extreme fly-ball pitcher such as Frieri at Coors Field.
“(Jared) Hughes, we are not going to use three runs down at this particular point in time,” Hurdle said.
The Pirates were quieted by Rockies starter Brett Anderson, who allowed two hits in 62⁄3 innings. Anderson left the game because of a blister.
The only jam Anderson found himself in nearly ended with a triple play in the fifth.
After Neil Walker began the inning with a single off Anderson, Russell Martin walked to put runners on second and first with no outs. Jordy Mercer ripped a ground ball to third baseman Chris Culberson, who stepped on third for the first out and threw to second to Rutledge, whose throw to first beat Mercer. However, Rutledge was ruled to have been off second base when receiving the throw.
The Pirates did not get to the Rockies' bullpen until the ninth. Mercer hit a sacrifice fly.
Note: Pirates catcher Russell Martin left the game late because of the lopsided score, not an injury.
Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.
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