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Rockies upend Pirates with three-run eighth inning

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Jose Veras regrets only two pitches he threw in the eighth inning Saturday of the Pirates' 6-4 loss against the Colorado Rockies.

"Two pitches cost three runs," Veras said. "Two pitches cost us the game."

The second was the most costly. It was supposed to be a fastball away, but Ty Wigginton lashed it down the third base line for a two-out, three-run double that broke a 3-3 tie.

But the pitch that hurt Veras the most, the one that should never have happened, was a 1-1 fastball that grazed Jose Lopez. That loaded the bases with two outs, setting up Wigginton's clutch hit.

"I tried to come in and set up my breaking ball, maybe (get) a broken-bat rollover," Veras said. "That was the pitch that cost me the game."

Veras has a dynamite fastball, but he also has battled control problems throughout his six-year career. The first two batters he faced reached base via a walk and a single, but then Veras struck out Troy Tulowitzki and Seth Smith.

"Almost got out of the jam," Veras said.

After Lopez was hit, pitching coach Ray Searage went out to calm Veras.

"He got into a rhythm where he was overthrowing," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He just wasn't finishing pitches. He missed his location on the pitch (to Wigginton)."

Wigginton jumped on the first pitch and sent a rocket past third baseman Pedro Alvarez.

"The only way Pedro makes that play is if he's straddling the third base line," Hurdle said.

Pirates starter Charlie Morton had some rough spots, but he was able to keep innings from becoming meltdowns. The right-hander worked seven innings — much needed, as the bullpen was weary after the 14-inning game Friday — and allowed three runs (two earned) and five hits.

"He basically threw one pitch all night," catcher Ryan Doumit said. "He basically threw a sinker, and they couldn't do much with it."

There was a downside, though.

"I walked five guys again," Morton said. "That's something I've got to work on, being more consistent with my delivery. I wasn't overwhelmed or anything; more frustrated, not being able to get the ball over the plate."

It was the second straight start in which Morton's issued five walks. Most of the balls came off his sinker, especially against right-handed batters.

"If the plate was moved over a foot toward the right-hander's batter's box, I'd be in a lot better shape," Morton said. "I wasn't spraying balls everywhere. I was missing down and in to righties and away to lefties."

Only two of Morton's first 13 pitches were strikes. Dexter Fowler walked, stole second and went to third on catcher Ryan Doumit's wild throw. Jonathan Herrera walked on four pitches.

But on a 3-0 count, Gonzalez hacked at a sinker and bounced into a double play. Fowler scored, but what might have been a big inning for the Rockies was short-circuited.

In the second inning, Morton threw seven pitches, four of them in the zone, for a 1-2-3 frame.

The Pirates took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the second. Lyle Overbay doubled and scored on Doumit's homer.

After getting two quick outs in the third, Morton walked Fowler and gave up singles to Herrera and Gonzalez. That tied the game, 2-2.

In the sixth, Colorado's Seth Smith slammed a solo homer to right-center field. The ball bounced on the concourse and rolled downhill toward the Allegheny River, directly to a man standing along the water's edge.

Photo Galleries

Pirates vs. Rockies April 9, 2011

Pirates vs. Rockies   April 9, 2011

The Pirates vs. the Colorado Rockies at PNC Park.

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