A rare implosion by closer Richard Rodriguez prevented the Pittsburgh Pirates from equaling their longest winning streak of the season Sunday, as the Colorado Rockies rallied for two runs in the ninth inning to pull out a 4-3 victory at PNC Park.
The Pirates were on the verge of winning their third straight game and sweeping the series, thanks to a strong starting pitching performance from newly recalled Chase De Jong.
But Rodriguez, who came on in the eighth to put out a fire, created a mess of his own in the ninth. The reliable right-hander opened the inning by getting a fly out, then lost a 12-pitch duel to Ryan McMahon, who managed to reach on a walk. Charlie Blackmon then doubled off the wall on a drive that sailed just over the glove of a leaping Bryan Reynolds in center, scoring McMahon with the tying run.
After Joshua Fuentes struck out, Blackmon advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored what proved to be the winning run on Matt Adams’ single.
Rockies reliever Daniel Bard had no difficulty in closing out the win in the ninth, securing just the fourth road win in 26 starts this season for the Rockies.
The Pirates will attempt to extend to start a new winning streak when they meet the Kansas City Royals on the road at 8:10 p.m. Monday.
De Jong, making his Pirates debut, went five-plus innings and held the Rockies to one run and three hits, walking two and striking out five.
Pirates general manager Ben Cherington indicated on his weekly radio show on 93.7 The Fan that the 27-year-old De Jong was more than just a one-start stopgap.
A second-round selection in the 2012 draft by Seattle, De Jong last pitched in the big leagues in 2020 with Houston – his third major league team. He was pitching well at Indianapolis, the Pirates’ Triple-A club, prior to his elevation to the major league roster Sunday.
De Jong exited after yielding a leadoff single to Yonathan Daza in the sixth. Back-to-back walks by reliever Sam Howard loaded the bases with no outs, but he responded by getting both Fuentes and Adams to take called third strikes.
Bucs manager Derek Shelton then called on Clay Holmes to close the door, and the right-hander responded by striking out Brendan Rodgers on three pitches.
Holmes retired the first two batters in the sixth before giving up a base hit to Raimel Tapia and walking Daza. That brought on southpaw Chasen Shreve, who induced McMahon to foul out to Adam Frazier to end the threat.
The Rockies made Pirates fans sweat in the eighth, thanks to reliever Kyle Crick’s inability to find the strike zone.
Crick started the eighth by giving up a double to Blackmon, then after a wild pitch, he walked Fuentes. Crick then struck out Adams on a pitch that actually hit him in the leg, and followed that by plunking Rodgers in the ribs. Crick then struck out Dom Nunez for the second out, but walked C.J. Cron to force in a run.
That was it for Crick. Rodriguez came on and got Tapia to fly out to right to end the threat with the Pirates clinging to a 3-2 lead. But he was unable to do the job in the ninth.
The Pirates jumped to a 1-0 lead in the third off Rockies starter Kyle Freeland. Ka’ai Tom opened the inning with a walk and moved to second on De Jong’s sacrifice bunt. Tom then came around to score on Frazier’s double to center.
The Rockies tied the score in the fourth on Daza’s base hit and Blackmon’s triple.
The Pirates pushed across two runs in the bottom of the fourth to snap the 1-1 tie. Gregory Polanco started the rally with a single and Will Craig followed with a base hit of his own. Erik Gonzalez’s walk loaded the bases, and Tom delivered an RBI single to make it 2-1. After De Jong struck out, Frazier’s RBI fielder’s choice increased the lead to 3-1.