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Pirates overcome bumbling defense in 4-2 win

A series of defensive miscues by the left side of their infield put the Pirates behind, but fortunately they were playing the Rockies.

Justin K. Aller

The Pirates won the type of game they consistently used to lose during the bad times:  one in which neither team played especially well.  The game started with Francisco Liriano struggling to throw strikes.  He loaded the bases with one out in the first by walking two following an infield hit, but he induced a double play grounder to get out of trouble.

In the second, the Pirates' defense struck.  After a cheap single, a Jordy Mercer error and a failure to retire pitcher Jorge De La Rosa on a bunt loaded the bases with one out again.  Liriano induced another routine double play grounder, but Mercer booted it and got only a force out.  Liriano settled in after that, although a high pitch count led to a five-inning outing.  He finished with just the unearned run, three very weak hits, three walks and eight strikeouts, including three of Pirate-killer (1.026 career OPS) Carlos Gonzalez.  (Justin Wilson and Mark Melancon both also fanned CarGo, so Pirate pitchers were 5-5 in striking him out.)  Meanwhile, the Pirates' hitters struggled with De La Rosa, who came in with a 5.87 ERA in road games.

The Pirates tied the game in the bottom of the fifth, but not before Clint Hurdle committed one of his patented, inexplicable blunders.  He let Liriano bat with one out, only to replace him to start the sixth.  After Liriano was retired, Gregory Polanco got an infield single and Starling Marte grounded a ball down the left field line for an RBI triple.  When the left fielder let the ball roll around in the corner, Marte ran through a stop sign and tried for an inside-the-park homer, but got thrown out on a close play.

The Pirates' defense's next victim, Jared Hughes, got two outs to start the sixth, but a Pedro Alvarez throwing error was followed by two singles for another unearned run.  Alvarez went hitless again and was replaced in an odd switch that left Wilson due up third in the bottom of the seventh, which may indicate that Hurdle is having the same doubts many fans are having about whether the team can afford to continue playing Alvarez.

The Rockies came to the rescue in the bottom of the seventh, when a single by Mercer, a wild pitch and a throwing error by the normally outstanding Nolan Arenado put runners on first and second with one out.  Polanco singled to load the bases and Marte then got hit in the head to force in the tying run.  Marte stayed in the game after a delay, but came out in the ninth, so there may be further news on him.  With the bases loaded and one out, Andrew McCutchen fanned and Russell Martin flied out.

The Pirates finally took control in the eighth.  Neil Walker and Gaby Sanchez singled, and a diving CarGo came up empty on Travis Snider's pinch-hit liner, which went for a double that scored Walker.  Josh Harrison later brought in Sanchez' pinch runner with a sacrifice fly.  Melancon got three easy outs after a leadoff single to pick up his 17th save.  Tony Watson got the win with a scoreless eighth, making him 6-1.