Pirates’ bats avoid collapse in 14-6 victory against Rockies | TribLIVE.com
Pirates/MLB

Pirates’ bats avoid collapse in 14-6 victory against Rockies

Jerry DiPaola
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates first baseman Josh Bell drives in a run during the fourth inning against the Rockies Thursday, May 23, 2019, at PNC Park.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates first baseman Josh Bell celebrates his home run during the seventh inning. Bell went 3 for 4 with two RBIs, raising his season totals to 16 homers, 47 RBIs and a .339 average.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Jordan Lyles delivers against the Rockies’ Daivid Dahl during the fourth inning Thursday, May 23, 2019, at PNC Park.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Starling Marte scores past Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta during the fourth inning Thursday, May 23, 2019, at PNC Park.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Starling Marte doubles during the fourth inningagainst the Rockies Thursday, May 23, 2019, at PNC Park.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Starling Marte celebrates his double next to the Rockies’ Trevor Story during the fourth inning Thursday, May 23, 2019, at PNC Park.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Jordan Lyles delivers during the fourth inning against the Rockies Thursday, May 23, 2019, at PNC Park.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Jordan Lyles exits the game during the sixth inning against the Rockies Thursday, May 23, 2019, at PNC Park.
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Pirates second baseman Adam Frazier turns a double play over the Rockies’ David Dahl during the seventh inning Thursday, May 23, 2019, at PNC Park.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Pirates’ Bryan Reynolds celebrates his three-run home run with Colin Moran during the seventh inning against the Rockies Thursday, May 23, 2019, at PNC Park.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Starling Marte celebrates his two-run home run with Adam Frazier during the seventh inning against the Rockies Thursday, May 23, 2019, at PNC Park.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Jordan Lyles delivers to the Rockies’ Daivid Dahl during the fourth inning Thursday, May 23, 2019, at PNC Park.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Pirates’ Gregory Polanco celebrates with Bryan Reynolds and Starling Marte after defeating the Rockies Thursday, May 23, 2019, at PNC Park.
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Pirates first base coach Omar Moreno talks with first baseman Josh Bell during a game against the Rockies Thursday, May 23, 2019, at PNC Park.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pleft fielder Bryan Reynolds makes a catch in foul territory to end the game against the Rockies Thursday, May 23, 2019, at PNC Park.

The margin of victory was the Pittsburgh Pirates’ largest of the season, but the 14-6 final score Thursday against the Colorado Rockies had opposite meanings for two of the most important members of the team.

“The weather’s warming up. The bats are warming up. We’re in a good place with the Dodgers coming to town (for a weekend series),” said Josh Bell after the Pirates amassed a season-high run total, mashed four home runs and finished with 15 hits.

The storyline that matters, however, is the Pirates avoiding a monumental collapse after they lost most of an 8-0 lead they had built through five innings.

Starting pitcher Jordan Lyles wanted to feel good about his fifth victory in six decisions. But one horrible inning — when 8-0 turned into 8-6 — wouldn’t let that happen. In the end, the Pirates won before a crowd of 15,490 at PNC Park, but their pitching woes continued.

“I had a chance to give the boys some rest out in the bullpen,” Lyles said. “This one stings.”

Nonetheless, this was an important victory for the Pirates (25-22) after the Rockies won the first two games of the series decisively. Especially coming after the 9-3 loss Wednesday night, the eighth defeat this season by a margin of at least six.

Manager Clint Hurdle was happy to see his team bounce back but not because it makes them appear resilient. Hurdle believes such intangibles don’t win games as much as hits and good pitches do.

What the victory proves is the Pirates, when challenged, can play good baseball.

“Anytime you get beat by a spread score, it’s not a test of your resiliency. It’s not a test of your courage. It’s not a test of you’re want-to. It’s not,” Hurdle said. “Play better baseball.

“I think they’ve grasped that. The ability to bounce back just shows, for me, that’s what they’re doing. They’re focusing on what’s next.”

For a game that looked like a rout at the outset, it had some unexpected turning points.

Lyles was in command for five innings, retiring 14 batters in a row at one point. But he couldn’t survive the sixth when the Rockies scored six runs on five hits.

“Tough one to swallow,” said Lyles, whose ERA soared from 1.78 at the end of the fifth to 2.81 when he left in the sixth. “Very lucky (the Pirates batters) were able to step up. The curveball that inning was not very good for me. I had plenty of chances to get out of that inning free of any damage.”

Give credit to the Rockies, though. Lyles said “one through five or six (in the batting order) is probably the best you’re going to see in the National League. They made me pay.”

Lyles will take the victory, but it belonged more to relief pitcher Kyle Crick and the Pirates’ hitters, who turned 8-6 into 14-6 by hitting three home runs in the seventh.

Bell led off with a solo home run, his 16th, giving him an MLB-high 47 RBIs and raising his batting average to .339. He is attacking pitches with viciousness, too. A total of 12 of his past 16 hits have been clocked at 104.8 mph or faster coming off the bat.

“This is as good as I’ve seen,” Hurdle said. “But I’ve seen Larry Walker, Dante Bichette, Todd Helton, Josh Hamilton in his MVP year. I’ve seen some really special things. This would go right in that category. It’s been fantastically fun to watch.”

Bryan Reynolds followed with his first career pinch-hit homer, a three-run shot. Starling Marte provided the punctuation mark with a two-run homer. All three came against Rockies reliever Carlos Estevez.

It was mostly gravy at that point after Crick was asked to preserve the 8-6 lead in the top of the inning. With two runners on base and Nolan Arenado representing the lead run, Crick forced him to ground into a 1-4-3 double play. Crick made a slick stab of the groundball and threw slightly awry to second baseman Adam Frazier, who was able to catch, throw and get the second out at first.

“He made a good pitch to one of the best players in the game,” Hurdle said.

The hidden storyline might be some nice work by the bullpen, with four relievers allowing no runs over the final 313 innings without throwing an excessive amount of pitches.

Hurdle didn’t say he planned to go back to the opener concept Friday for the first of three games against the two-time defending National League champion Dodgers. But he probably will need several able relief pitchers to get through the weekend, with five games scheduled in the next four days.

Until Friday, however, the identity of the starter remains a mystery to the Dodgers and everyone else.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Pirates
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