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Bucs' reserves boost offense in all-around win

Rodriguez leads bottom-of-order charge, Kuhl tosses quiet six innings
MLB.com @adamdberry

PITTSBURGH -- After two nights heavy on snow and light on offense, the sun returned to PNC Park on Wednesday afternoon -- and so did the Pirates' bats. The highest-scoring lineup in the National League returned to form, racking up 13 hits and cruising to a 10-2 win over the Rockies to avoid a three-game series sweep.

The Pirates scored only two runs and hit just .153 in their first two games against the Rockies -- both losses. Manager Clint Hurdle switched up his lineup for the series finale matinee behind right-hander Chad Kuhl. Out went Gregory Polanco, Colin Moran, Francisco Cervelli and Corey Dickerson. In came all four of Pittsburgh's reserve hitters: David Freese, Sean Rodriguez, Elias Diaz and Max Moroff. After three scoreless innings, those four sparked the Pirates' lineup during a three-run rally in the fourth.

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PITTSBURGH -- After two nights heavy on snow and light on offense, the sun returned to PNC Park on Wednesday afternoon -- and so did the Pirates' bats. The highest-scoring lineup in the National League returned to form, racking up 13 hits and cruising to a 10-2 win over the Rockies to avoid a three-game series sweep.

The Pirates scored only two runs and hit just .153 in their first two games against the Rockies -- both losses. Manager Clint Hurdle switched up his lineup for the series finale matinee behind right-hander Chad Kuhl. Out went Gregory Polanco, Colin Moran, Francisco Cervelli and Corey Dickerson. In came all four of Pittsburgh's reserve hitters: David Freese, Sean Rodriguez, Elias Diaz and Max Moroff. After three scoreless innings, those four sparked the Pirates' lineup during a three-run rally in the fourth.

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"There was no vocal, extra urgency. But it was definitely, 'Let's salvage this series and move on.' Those are important," Freese said. "Every game matters. It's all urgency. Today was a big one."

The Pirates believe they boast a deep bench consisting of players who can step into the lineup on any given day without the team missing a beat. This spring, Freese said the group should be one of the team's strengths. They showed how in the fourth inning. After three scoreless innings, the four reserves strung together a walk, a homer and two hits that turned the Bucs' one-run deficit into a two-run lead.

"You want to take pride in stepping up and making it seem like a seamless transition when your everyday guys get a break and me, Sean and Max get in there," Freese said. "Today was a day where we kind of showed up and kept it going and helped get a 'W.'"

Freese worked a two-out walk against Rockies starter Kyle Freeland, then Rodriguez pulled his second homer of the season to the short corner down the left-field line to give the Bucs a 2-1 lead. Diaz singled to left, and Moroff crushed a line-drive double to dead center to punctuate the inning.

Video: COL@PIT: Moroff rips an RBI double to center

Freese delivered the biggest blow in the Pirates' fifth-inning rally, too, capping off a 10-pitch at-bat with reliever Scott Oberg by crushing a two-run double to left-center.

Video: COL@PIT: Freese wins battle, plates two with a double

"He's been able to do this throughout his career. Today, that's a snapshot of David as a hitter," Hurdle said. "He gets in there. He plants, anchors in, and he just fights and battles, and he's got a pretty good eye."

Josh Bell tacked on a pair of run-scoring hits, finishing 2-for-5 with three RBIs, and Adam Frazier and Jordy Mercer each drove in a run from atop the order as every hitter in the starting lineup reached base at least once. The Bucs knocked out Freeland after four-plus innings and got into Colorado's bullpen early, one of the characteristics of their early season success at the plate.

Video: COL@PIT: Bell rips a two-run double to right

"This is what we've been able to do pretty consistently in the 2 1/2 weeks that we've been playing," Hurdle said.

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Kuhl put together his best start of the season overall, holding Colorado to one run over six innings. And his last inning was his best by far, giving him something to build on as he moves forward. Kuhl generally stayed out of trouble most of the afternoon, with Chris Iannetta's third-inning homer the only real damage done against him. But the sixth was Kuhl's only clean inning.

Kuhl got Ian Desmond to ground out on four pitches, retired Trevor Story on three pitches and struck out Ryan McMahon with a nasty slider, his 98th pitch, to finish his longest start of the year. Kuhl has often expressed his desire to pitch deeper into games, which made Wednesday's performance all the more rewarding.

"Just to go out there, execute my pitches and have everything working, it just feels great," Kuhl said.

Video: COL@PIT: Kuhl discusses his strong start, command

SOUND SMART
The Pirates are the only team in the Majors to have their starters complete five innings in every game of the season. The Bucs are 7-2 this year when their starting pitcher works at least six innings.

"That makes seasons go a lot quicker, in all honesty," Freese said. "Pitching is the most important thing for a club when it comes to battling for a division. Obviously you've got to score runs, but when you can give the ball to one through five and they give you strong innings, it's going to benefit everybody."

Pittsburgh is also the Majors' only remaining undefeated team in day games this season, improving to 8-0 under natural light with Wednesday's win.

Moran snapped the Pirates' 0-for-16 pinch-hitting skid with a sixth-inning double to right field.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Lefty reliever Enny Romero made his Pirates debut in the eighth inning, allowing one run on a double and a wild pitch. The Bucs wanted to see him keep pitching, so they let him bat for himself with one out and nobody on against reliever Mike Dunn. Romero smashed a double -- with a 100.7 mph exit velocity, no less -- to right-center field for his first Major League hit, much to the delight of Pittsburgh's dugout.

Video: Romero doubles for first MLB hit

"Not a surprise. I can hit," Romero said. "I play softball sometimes in the offseason in the Dominican, every Sunday."

Romero came around to score on Mercer's sacrifice fly. He pitched a scoreless ninth with two more strikeouts. It was his first appearance in a game since April 3, before the Nationals designated him for assignment. Romero said he has been working on his delivery with the Pirates' pitching coaches since they acquired him.

"Repeating my delivery, that's the key right now for me," Romero said. "Sometimes I focus on throwing strikes and my delivery's real quick. Today it was like, 'Stay up and throw the ball down.' That's the key."

UP NEXT
The Pirates will begin a four-game series with the cross-state rival Phillies on Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park, with Jameson Taillon on the mound against Jake Arrieta, an old nemesis in a new uniform. Taillon has been outstanding through three starts, recording a 0.89 ERA and a 0.69 WHIP with 18 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

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