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Bats cold as Bucs handed 1st '18 shutout

MLB.com @adamdberry

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates got a number of unpleasant firsts out of the way on Tuesday night. Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis and three relievers held the Bucs' bats silent in Colorado's 2-0 win at PNC Park, dealing Pittsburgh its first shutout, losing streak and series defeat of the season.

Pittsburgh's lineup still leads the National League in runs scored after a hot start to the year, but Bettis cooled down the Bucs on another wintry night along the Allegheny River. The right-hander held the Pirates to five hits and two walks while striking out three over 7 1/3 efficient innings, then the Rockies' shut-down bullpen trio of Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee and Wade Davis closed the door.

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PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates got a number of unpleasant firsts out of the way on Tuesday night. Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis and three relievers held the Bucs' bats silent in Colorado's 2-0 win at PNC Park, dealing Pittsburgh its first shutout, losing streak and series defeat of the season.

Pittsburgh's lineup still leads the National League in runs scored after a hot start to the year, but Bettis cooled down the Bucs on another wintry night along the Allegheny River. The right-hander held the Pirates to five hits and two walks while striking out three over 7 1/3 efficient innings, then the Rockies' shut-down bullpen trio of Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee and Wade Davis closed the door.

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"We had some balls to hit that we didn't hit," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "When you hit them, that can change the complexion of the game. It can change the complexion of your offense. When you don't hit 'em, you get shut out."

The Pirates tipped their collective cap to Bettis, who kept them off-balance with a steady diet of fastballs and changeups. Shortstop Jordy Mercer also admitted the obvious: It's no fun to hit in that weather, especially after spending the weekend at Marlins Park in Miami.

"It's just hard to think about hitting when it's cold," Mercer said. "Your mind's trying to figure out how to stay warm, this or that. It's snowing, so your vision's a little weird. That's the biggest thing as hitters: It's hard to think about hitting in the box when the temperature's like that."

The temperature at first pitch was 34 degrees with 15-mph winds and snow flurries coming and going throughout the night. Like Bettis, Pirates right-hander Trevor Williams figured he could use the conditions to his advantage. He was effective in doing so, leaning on his sinker and changeup as he allowed only two runs over six innings.

"On a night like this, pitchers want to get back in the dugout and hitters are a little more aggressive," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "These types of games happen in these types of conditions."

The Rockies capitalized on the few mistakes Williams made, specifically his free passes. Williams walked three batters, and two of them scored. He walked Gerardo Parra with one out in the first, and Parra reached third on a check-swing single by Charlie Blackmon that sailed into shallow left-center field. Parra eventually scored on a grounder by Carlos Gonzalez to give the Rockies an early lead.

Video: COL@PIT: CarGo opens the scoring on fielder's choice

In the fourth, Williams issued a two-out walk to Ian Desmond. Trevor Story doubled and Ryan McMahon singled to drive in Desmond, giving Colorado a two-run lead. Williams buckled down after that, working two scoreless innings and leaving after six.

"Guys are swinging early. No one likes standing in the box for too long in the cold," Williams said. "We thought we could get some cheap outs that way with a sinker roll-over or changeup roll-over."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Pirates couldn't mount any sustained attack offensively, but they also ran themselves into a pair of outs. Williams reached on an infield single in the third, but he was thrown out by Parra when he tried to tag up on a flyout by Sean Rodriguez.

"I thought it was hit deeply enough, and I was trying to do everything I could to get into scoring position, especially with the top of the lineup coming up," Williams said. "He made a good throw. If it's off-line a little bit, you know, I'm in there safely."

Video: COL@PIT: McMahon throws home to save a run in 8th

In the eighth inning, Mercer doubled and advanced to third on a grounder, but he was easily thrown out at home on Rodriguez's grounder to third base. Mercer said he was told to break for home on anything but a ball hit back to the pitcher.

"Just can't string that big inning together like we have, like we did in Chicago or like we did in Miami to scrap a couple wins there," Mercer said. "It's just trying to get that big inning, get somebody on base, get something started and kind of keep the line moving."

HE SAID IT
"I'm hoping that this is going to be the last one, but it is what it is. It's tough waking up and seeing a blizzard outside, but it's tough for the hitter, too." -- Williams, a San Diego native and former Arizona State player who had never pitched in snow until this season, on making another start in the frigid weather

GOOD GESTURE OF THE DAY
Tuesday night's inclement weather was nothing new for the Pirates, who have escaped precipitation and near-freezing temperatures only in Miami this season. But with snow flurries in the air, the Bucs decided to honor the small crowd willing to brave the elements. The Pirates handed out "thank you" ticket vouchers -- good for a lower-level seat at a future Monday-Thursday game -- to fans as they left PNC Park.

Tweet from @Pirates: Pirates

UP NEXT
Right-hander Chad Kuhl (1-1, 5.74 ERA) will look to work deeper into the game as he starts the Pirates' series finale against the Rockies on Wednesday at 12:35 p.m. ET at PNC Park. Kuhl, who will start opposite lefty Kyle Freeland, has yet to complete six innings in a start this season.

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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