Bats, bullpen struggle in series opener against Rox
Frieri struggles in seventh while Bucs come up empty vs. Anderson
DENVER -- The Pirates' bullpen was on lockdown in last weekend's sweep of the Rockies, earning all three wins while giving up just one unearned run over 11 innings.
But there would be no bailing out the rotation to begin the three-game rematch at Coors Field Friday night. Right-handed reliever Ernesto Frieri struggled to keep the game within striking distance for the Pirates after Charlie Morton's outing.
The Rockies erupted for seven runs in the seventh, racking up four of those off Frieri to dish out revenge in the form of an 8-1 series-opening loss for the Pirates.
Down 1-0 to start the seventh, Morton kept pace with a dominant performance from Rockies left-hander Brett Anderson before back-to-back doubles plated a run for Colorado. D.J. LeMahieu's single then put runners on the corners and put an end to Morton's night with an out yet to be recorded in the inning.
"That was a big left turn," manager Clint Hurdle said of the inning. "Hanging breaking ball for a double, an elevated sinker for another extra-base hit and then that little ground ball through the left side chased Charlie."
Hurdle countered a pinch-hitting Drew Stubbs with Frieri, but the decision backfired due to Frieri's fly-ball tendencies.
After serving up an RBI-double to Stubbs, Frieri intentionally walked Charlie Blackmon to get to Josh Rutledge even though the Rockies' fill-in shortstop had the only RBI of the game entering the inning.
Rutledge proceeded to clear the bases with his second double of the game. Just for good measure, Carlos Gonzalez then tacked on two more with a homer to right field.
Including a two-strikeout performance in taking over for Morton last Saturday against the Rockies, Frieri hadn't been scored upon in his last six outings, with just one hit allowed over that span. But on Friday, his lack of control and the Coors Field altitude compounded things in a hurry.
"Frieri came in and he's done good job for us," Hurdle said. "He was heading in a good direction and just wasn't able to quite execute the pitches that he needed to and they piled up seven on us."
The Pirates had no answer for Anderson all evening before a blister got the best of him in the seventh. Five days after tossing seven innings of one-run ball against the Bucs, Anderson cruised through 6 1/3 scoreless innings on Friday, surrendering just two hits while operating at his usual breakneck speed.
"We've done a real good job slowing him down as much as you can, but he throws strikes on top of it," Hurdle said. "He works quick, he throws strikes, he keeps the ball down, the fastball has some downhill angle and all his other pitches are effective as well."
But after issuing Russell Martin his third walk of the game, Anderson clearly began having trouble with his grip. Rockies manager Walt Weiss took notice and promptly pulled him.
Hurdle, for one, couldn't have been happier to watch him walk off into the sunset.
"I'm glad we don't have to see him anymore," Hurdle said. "He's been as effective as any pitcher we've seen this season."
Outside of the two inherited runners that scored off Frieri, Morton's line was almost identical to his last quality start against the Rockies. He finished his night with seven hits, four earned runs and a walk against him, but knows his two misfires are what got the big inning started."
"I thought it was good pitching from me today," Morton said. "In the seventh, that's when it got away.
"I hung a curveball and a left a sinker right down the middle. Those two pitches right there, that's all."
The Pirates scored their only run of the evening in the ninth on a sacrifice from Jordy Mercer after Rockies right-hander Matt Belisle loaded the bases. But right-hander Adam Ottavino took over and stopped the Hail Mary attempt right there with two quick outs in the infield.