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Rockies' 7-run 7th-inning dooms Pirates in 8-1 loss

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Friday, July 25, 2014, 11:51 p.m.
 

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.

Why Frieri?

“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 7 23 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 6 23 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 tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

Getty Images - Pirates reliever Ernesto Frieri reacts after giving up a two-run homer during the seventh inning to the Rockies' Carlos Gonzalez on Friday, July 25, 2014, at Coors Field in Denver.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>Pirates reliever Ernesto Frieri reacts after giving up a two-run homer during the seventh inning to the Rockies' Carlos Gonzalez on Friday, July 25, 2014, at Coors Field in Denver.
Getty Images - Fans sit under the cover of an umbrella as a rainbow illuminates the field while Rockies starting pitcher Brett Anderson delivers to home plate during the fifth inning against the Pirates on Friday, July 25, 2014, in Denver.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>Fans sit under the cover of an umbrella as a rainbow illuminates the field while Rockies starting pitcher Brett Anderson delivers to home plate during the fifth inning against the Pirates on Friday, July 25, 2014, in Denver.
AP - Pirates starting pitcher Charlie Morton fields a bloop single hit by the Rockies' Nolan Arenado in the fourth inning Friday, July 25, 2014, in Denver.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Pirates starting pitcher Charlie Morton fields a bloop single hit by the Rockies' Nolan Arenado in the fourth inning Friday, July 25, 2014, in Denver.
AP - The Pirates' Russell Martin (55) slides safely into second base past Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu to avert a triple play in the fifth inning Friday, July 25, 2014, in Denver.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>The Pirates' Russell Martin (55) slides safely into second base past Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu to avert a triple play in the fifth inning Friday, July 25, 2014, in Denver.
Getty Images - The Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco makes a catch for the first out of the first inning on a ball off the bat of the Rockies' Charlie Blackmon (not pictured) on Friday, July 25, 2014, in Denver.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco makes a catch for the first out of the first inning on a ball off the bat of the Rockies' Charlie Blackmon (not pictured) on Friday, July 25, 2014, in Denver.
AP - Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado fields a ground ball hit by Pirates Charlie Morton in the third inning Friday, July 25, 2014, in Denver.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado fields a ground ball hit by Pirates Charlie Morton in the third inning Friday, July 25, 2014, in Denver.
AP - Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco catches a fly ball hit by the Rockies' Corey Dickerson in the seventh inning Friday, July 25, 2014, in Denver.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco catches a fly ball hit by the Rockies' Corey Dickerson in the seventh inning Friday, July 25, 2014, in Denver.
Getty Images - Pirates starter Charlie Morton deliversduring the fourth inning against the Rockies on Friday, July 25, 2014, at Coors Field in Denver.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>Pirates starter Charlie Morton deliversduring the fourth inning against the Rockies on Friday, July 25, 2014, at Coors Field in Denver.
AP - The Rockies' Carlos Gonzalez watches his home run sail over the wall in the seventh inning against the Pirates on Friday, July 25, 2014, in Denver.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>The Rockies' Carlos Gonzalez watches his home run sail over the wall in the seventh inning against the Pirates on Friday, July 25, 2014, in Denver.
AP - Pirates relief pitcher Ernesto Frieri throws in the seventh inning against the Colorado Rockies on Friday, July 25, 2014, in Denver.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Pirates relief pitcher Ernesto Frieri throws in the seventh inning against the Colorado Rockies on Friday, July 25, 2014, in Denver.
Getty Images - The Rockies' Josh Rutledge hits a three RBI double during the seventh inning against the Pirates on Friday, July 25, 2014, in Denver.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Rockies' Josh Rutledge hits a three RBI double during the seventh inning against the Pirates on Friday, July 25, 2014, in Denver.
AP - The Rockies' Drew Stubbs is congratulated by teammates after scoring on a three-run double by Josh Rutledge in the seventh inning against the Pirates on Friday, July 25, 2014, in Denver.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>The Rockies' Drew Stubbs is congratulated by teammates after scoring on a three-run double by Josh Rutledge in the seventh inning against the Pirates on Friday, July 25, 2014, in Denver.
Getty Images - Rockies starting pitcher Brett Anderson delivers to home plate during the first inning against the Pirates on Friday, July 25, 2014, in Denver.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>Rockies starting pitcher Brett Anderson delivers to home plate during the first inning against the Pirates on Friday, July 25, 2014, in Denver.
Getty Images - The Rockies' Wilin Rosario celebrates after his RBI double during the seventh inning against the Pirates on Friday, July 25, 2014, in Denver.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Rockies' Wilin Rosario celebrates after his RBI double during the seventh inning against the Pirates on Friday, July 25, 2014, in Denver.
Getty Images - Rockies starting pitcher Brett Anderson is checked out by the training staff and was removed from the game during the seventh inning against the Pirates on Friday, July 25, 2014, in Denver.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>Rockies starting pitcher Brett Anderson is checked out by the training staff and was removed from the game during the seventh inning against the Pirates on Friday, July 25, 2014, in Denver.
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