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Musgrove on wrong end of Coors Field duel

Right-hander allows just one earned run in seven innings
Special to MLB.com

DENVER -- Pitching reigned supreme Monday night at Coors Field, as the Pirates and Rockies scratched out two and five hits, respectively, with the Rockies' first three hits coming in a two-run, fifth-inning rally. Immediately after the first run crossed the plate, the Rockies' hit parade was rained on with a 32-minute delay before play resumed and another run crossed the plate en route to Colorado dealing Pittsburgh a 2-0 defeat.

Starting pitcher Joe Musgrove retired the first 12 Rockies in order before Nolan Arenado led off the fifth with a single to right. Trevor Story singled to center, sending Arenado to third, and a fielding error by second baseman Josh Harrison allowed Arenado to put the Rockies on the scoreboard just before the rain came.

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DENVER -- Pitching reigned supreme Monday night at Coors Field, as the Pirates and Rockies scratched out two and five hits, respectively, with the Rockies' first three hits coming in a two-run, fifth-inning rally. Immediately after the first run crossed the plate, the Rockies' hit parade was rained on with a 32-minute delay before play resumed and another run crossed the plate en route to Colorado dealing Pittsburgh a 2-0 defeat.

Starting pitcher Joe Musgrove retired the first 12 Rockies in order before Nolan Arenado led off the fifth with a single to right. Trevor Story singled to center, sending Arenado to third, and a fielding error by second baseman Josh Harrison allowed Arenado to put the Rockies on the scoreboard just before the rain came.

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"The delay sucked," Musgrove said. "I felt really good, even after the back-to-back singles. I felt like my stuff was really sharp. I felt like I hadn't really lost anything. Even the two singles, I thought I made good pitches, they were just all over it. So going through the delay … it caused me to lose my rhythm a little bit … and I was trying to be as efficient as possible to try and find my groove again. Even after the delay, I felt really strong and I felt really sharp."

Video: PIT@COL: Musgrove strikes out Desmond looking in 3rd

The interruption of play was quick enough that both starting pitchers were able to pick up where they left off. Musgrove hit Ian Desmond -- the first batter he saw after the rain delay -- to load the bases, and Chris Iannetta launched a sacrifice fly to center to make it 2-0. After Rockies starter Kyle Freeland was retired on a soft pop back to the pitcher, David Dahl singled to right, where Gregory Polanco fired a rocket to the plate to catch Gerardo Parra and cut the Rockies' rally short.

"You're in the middle of that deal, those guys can swing the bats," manager Clint Hurdle said of Musgrove's ability to stay focused and limit the damage while navigating a tough lineup around a long break in action. "We had a chance to get out of it, we don't make a play, and it really sets up hard. And, boom! He makes pitches to keep them at two, one earned run on the night. Yeah, very professional. Very well executed again."

Video: PIT@COL: Hurdle on Musgrove's start, offensive issues

In seven innings, Freeland held the Bucs to two hits, a single to center from former Rockie Corey Dickerson to leadoff the first frame, and a two-out double from Musgrove in the top of the third, the pitcher's first career extra-base hit. The Pirates had three other baserunners, with Polanco earning a free pass in the fourth, Francisco Cervelli the victim of a hit-by-pitch in the seventh, and Harrison following with a base on balls before Freeland escaped the seventh and gave way to a perfect 'pen; Seunghwan Oh put the Pirates down in order in the eighth, while Wade Davis retired three in a row for his 32nd save of the season.

"Freeland was fine," Hurdle said of his opponent's seven innings of scoreless, two-hit ball. "Freeland mixed the two-seamer, the cutter, the changeup we knew he would use more based on recent activity, he used that effectively. He was very aggressive, attacked.

"I like the way our guy pitched. Musgrove pitched a very professional game, 23 out of 26 first-pitch strikes, and [reliever Edgar] Santana followed up with four out of four first-pitch strikes. I can't tell you the last time I saw guys throw 27 out of 30 first-pitch strikes."

Musgrove pitched a full three innings after the rain delay, retiring the final six batters he faced to end the night with two runs (one earned) on four hits and a hit batsman over seven innings for an uncharacteristic loss in a high-quality Coors Field start.

"I was aware of all the sayings about how the field plays and how the ball carries and stuff's not as sharp as it usually is," Musgrove said of his first appearance at Coors Field. "But I thought tonight was some of the best stuff I'd had all year. My slider was the best it's felt, the depth on it, the shape of it, was really good. Going into the outing, I was really focused on making sure I finished my pitches and not just sling it in there. It could have been that, it could have just been that it's not really all that much different here."

SOUND SMART
Polanco and Starling Marte are both mired in 0-for-14 hitless streaks.

Monday marked the 11th time the Pirates have been blanked this season, tied with Washington for most in the National League.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Polanco's pinpoint throw to catcher Elias Diaz in the fifth to catch Parra by a yard in front of the plate may not have changed the final result of the game, but the defensive gem halted the Rockies in their tracks, minimizing the damage in a potentially explosive inning.

"Polanco helped me out huge with that play at the plate," Musgrove said.

Video: PIT@COL: Polanco nabs Parra with strong throw home

The Bucs' outfielders tends to make headlines with their bats, but they lead the National League with 27 outfield assists this season. Polanco's throw was a potential game-saver, keeping Pittsburgh within two in hitter-friendly Coors Field. It was his seventh outfield assist of the season and his fourth in the last three games.

HE SAID IT
"He hits a double into right-center field and goes in sideways into second base and comes up with his own shimmy. It's a kid in the backyard playing Wiffle ball, with a lot of confidence." -- Hurdle, on Musgrove's double in the third inning

UP NEXT
Jameson Taillon (8-8, 3.74 ERA) starts the middle game of the three-game set in Colorado at 8:40 p.m. ET, and he'll face Chad Bettis, who returns for the Rockies after a stint on the disabled list brought on by blisters on his pitching fingers. Taillon is on a roll, allowing just three earned runs or fewer in each of his last 12 starts. He is 4-1 with a 2.37 ERA in his last six road starts. Taillon pitched five shutout innings against the Rockies in his only appearance against them, a June 12 start in Pittsburgh last year.

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com based in Denver.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Joe Musgrove