ShareThis Page

Pirates complete sweep of Rockies with comeback win at PNC

| Sunday, July 20, 2014, 4:54 p.m.
The Pirates' Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker celebrate after defeating the Colorado Rockies on Sunday, July 20, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
The Pirates' Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker celebrate after defeating the Colorado Rockies on Sunday, July 20, 2014, at PNC Park.

Clint Hurdle says “the 90s” are something he discusses with his players every day.

Not the 1990s; rather, Hurdle constantly harps on the importance of taking advantage of every opportunity to advance 90 extra feet on the bases. The extra 90s add up to extra runs, to extra wins.

There was no obvious star responsible for the Pirates' 5-3 win over the Rockies on Sunday, which secured the Pirates' second sweep of the season. There was no single party to credit for elevating the club to six games above .500, tying a season-best position.

Instead, the Pirates' third consecutive come-from-behind win was tied to an accumulation of aggressive baserunning advances. The Pirates (52-46) are in third place behind the Cardinals and Brewers in the NL Central.

“They are not free 90s. You have to make them happen,” Hurdle said. “You have to look for opportunities whether it's a dirt-ball read, a hit-and-run. … We have guys that are selling out and getting it done.”

Josh Harrison stole two of the Pirates' four bases, including a key advancement in the seventh.

Against Rockies reliever Matt Belisle and catcher Michael McKenry, the former Pirates backup catcher, Harrison walked, stole second and came around to score the go-ahead run on an Andrew McCutchen RBI single. The Pirates are well aware of McKenry's throwing limitations.

“We try to pick our spots to go and steal bags,” Harrison said. “Any time we can put pressure on the pitcher and catcher, we are in a good spot.”

Neil Walker followed with his 14th homer of the season, tops among NL second baseman, to give the Pirates a 5-3 lead. But Walker also offered some crucial baserunning advances.

With the Pirates down 3-0 in the second, Walker singled to right field. Gaby Sanchez read the play correctly and took an extra base, moving from first to third. Walker alertly watched Carlos Gonzalez throw to third and Walker took second base. Both scored on Jordy Mercer's following two-run single.

“Guys that have arms like that, you know any chance they think they have of throwing a guy out, they are going (to try),” Walker said of Gonzalez. “What let me (advance) was the ball flight. That's kind of an aggressive-type play. We've been heckled for our baserunning. … We are going to look stupid at times, but we are going to be aggressive.”

The Pirates tied the score at three in the sixth when Mercer walked, stole second and scored on Chris Stewart's second ground-rule double of the game.

The baserunning helped take Jeff Locke off the hook.

Locke's second half began Sunday much like his second half a year earlier — when Locke plummeted from All-Star status to a minor league demotion in late August.

Locke led all of baseball in walks last season. He entered Sunday having dramatically improved his control, but walked the first batter he faced postbreak in Brandon Barmes. The second batter of the game, Josh Rutledge, homered over the left-field wall to give the Rockies a 2-0 lead.

In the second, McKenry smashed a Locke changeup for a solo homer to give the Rockies a 3-0 lead.

After a rough early start, Locke settled down with four shutout innings. He struck out the side in the fourth, all on changeups, which is his new go-to off-speed offering. He recorded another quality start, allowing three runs over six inning. He walked two and struck out three.

“You just try to convince yourself ‘That's it' and be a little sharper,” Locke said of his turnaround. “We're never out of it.”

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.