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Rockies' bats unable to back Marquez's effort

Dahl hits 2-run HR; Rox go 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- David Dahl's body language suggested he was fishing for a home run in the fourth inning Wednesday, and sure enough it showed up -- 438 feet into the Coors Field home bullpen for two runs. The problem was the Rockies otherwise came home empty in the 4-3 loss to the Pirates in the rubber game.

For much of the season, strong starting pitching has carried the Rockies to National League West contention. But even that -- which included a slow beginning but otherwise solid six-inning, 10-strikeout performance from righty German Marquez (9-9) that included an immaculate inning -- hasn't been enough to prop up anemic offensive efforts as of late.

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DENVER -- David Dahl's body language suggested he was fishing for a home run in the fourth inning Wednesday, and sure enough it showed up -- 438 feet into the Coors Field home bullpen for two runs. The problem was the Rockies otherwise came home empty in the 4-3 loss to the Pirates in the rubber game.

For much of the season, strong starting pitching has carried the Rockies to National League West contention. But even that -- which included a slow beginning but otherwise solid six-inning, 10-strikeout performance from righty German Marquez (9-9) that included an immaculate inning -- hasn't been enough to prop up anemic offensive efforts as of late.

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Video: PIT@COL: Marquez fans Hechavarria for 10th strikeout

The Rockies have gone 7-9 in the last 16 games while batting .228 and averaging 3.125 runs. Wednesday, they were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, and the batting average in those situations over the last 16 games is .168, with 35 strikeouts in 119 at-bats. It's a bad time for a slump. The Rockies entered the game third in the NL West, 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Dodgers, and 2 1/2 out of the second Wild Card position. They've dropped three straight series.

"That's sort of been the theme lately -- lately meaning the last few weeks," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "We just haven't seemed to string the big hits in there with a couple of baserunners on base. We need that to turn around as we move forward."

After Dahl's fifth home run of the season came when Chris Archer (4-5) -- who went five innings and earned his first win since the Pirates acquired him from the Rays -- hung a changeup. Archer said it was the only time he shook off catcher Francisco Cervelli. Dahl is 4-for-12 (.333) with two walks and two strikeouts in five games since returning from a right foot fracture -- he spent extra time at Triple-A Albuquerque to regain his swing.

"I was just trying to have a good at-bat, trying to help the team any way I could and he just happened to leave a changeup up right there," Dahl said.

After Dahl's homer, the Rockies had first and second with one out in the fourth, two on with two outs in the fifth and sixth, and first and third with no outs in the eighth. Yet, all they managed was Ryan McMahon's one-out RBI single in the eighth off Kyle Crick, who then struck out Ian Desmond.

Video: PIT@COL: McMahon singles to center, trims deficit

Then, with lefty Felipe Vazquez pitching, pinch-hitter Chris Iannetta scorched a one-hopper -- 106.8 mph exit speed, according to Statcast™ -- only to see Pirates second baseman Adam Frazier make a diving play to maintain the one-run lead. Vazquez pitched the ninth for his 26th save.

"I think you just keep rolling with it," Iannetta said. "Same thing as at the beginning of the year, when we were saying our offense was the problem. Just keep rolling along, and it's going to flip."

Marquez's first-inning struggles -- a common thread with the starting staff -- continued when he gave up four hits and two runs on Gregory Polanco's RBI double and Colin Moran's RBI single. But Marquez held the Pirates to one run the rest of his day, and tied a career high by getting third strikes on nine curveballs. The other strikeout -- Josh Bell to end the first -- came on a slider.

"My fastball was not the best this outing, but I was able to mix my curveball, slider and changeup pretty effectively," Marquez said in Spanish, with first-base coach Tony Diaz translating.

"[Marquez is] a stud -- I wish we could take back the first inning, but what can we do?" catcher Tony Wolters said. "He came back and shoved and kept us in the game."

The Pirates scored again in the eighth after Rockies reliever Adam Ottavino walked Bell, then watched standout third baseman Nolan Arenado boot away Adeiny Hechavarria's grounder for an error. Corey Dickerson's sacrifice fly would open a 4-2 lead.

Shaw earning Black's trust again

Video: PIT@COL: Marquez, Dahl on 4-3 loss to Pirates

IT'S IMMACULATE
Whenever the word "immaculate" is connected to a Pittsburgh sporting event, you think Franco Harris and a bunch of Steelers fans pouring into the field at Three Rivers Stadium (look it up, kids).

But this time it worked against a Steel City team.

Video: PIT@COL: Marquez throws an immaculate inning

Marquez, after overcoming early traffic, struck out Corey Dickerson, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco on nine pitches in the fourth. A nine-pitch, three strikeout inning is known as an immaculate inning. It was the first such feat in Coors Field history, and just the second in Rockies history. Lefty reliever Rex Brothers did it at San Francisco on June 14, 2014, ini the eighth.

SOUND SMART
The Rockies went 2-5 on a road trip to St. Louis and Milwaukee, but figured to gain traction at home. However, they dropped their first series at Coors since June 22-24 against the Marlins.

Charlie Blackmon (seeing some success after a 1-for-31 stretch), DJ LeMahieu (.207 in the last seven games), Carlos Gonzalez (7-for-30 in seven games), Gerardo Parra (5-for-21 since Aug. 1) and Desmond (4-for-26 in the last even) all have had days off, and Black pulled Arenado (2-for-9 for the series with the Pirates) for two innings of Tuesday's 10-2 loss to the Pirates.

"You look at the schedule," Black said. "You look to see how guys are physically, how they are swinging. It sort of all lines up for certain guys to get rest. It's hard at times, but it makes so much sense."

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Above-average arms can save runs. With Cervelli at first in the fifth, Frazier lashed a double to left-center, where Parra slid to make sure he blocked the ball and could make the incoming throw to shortstop Trevor Story, who threw a dart to Wolters easily beat Cervelli.

Video: PIT@COL: Story starts relay to nab Cervelli

After scrambling to his feet, Parra managed an 80.8 mph throw to Story, whose relay zoomed home at 92.8 mph.

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Well, Blackmon thought he was out, anyhow.

Video: PIT@COL: Cervelli gets Blackmon, call stands

The Rockies challenged an out call when Blackmon attempted to steal second with no outs in the seventh. Blackmon seemed so sure he was out that he immediately left the field. But replays on the scoreboard at least had fans convinced that Hechavarria's tag didn't touch him until after Blackmon's foot had touched the base. But after a lengthy review, the call stood.

UP NEXT
Like much of the rest of the rotation, Rockies lefty Tyler Anderson (6-4, 4.05 ERA) has struggled in the first inning. He hopes to avoid a repeat of his last start when he gave up six first-inning runs at Milwaukee. Anderson takes the ball at Coors Field Thursday against the Dodgers in the opener of an important National League West series starting a 6:40 p.m. MT. He is 2-1 with a 2.98 ERA in his last seven starts. Ross Stripling takes the mound for Los Angeles.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, David Dahl