PITTSBURGH – It was a new approach to an all-too-familiar problem for the Colorado Rockies.
The three-run first inning didn't matter. Neither did the other team's starting pitcher leaving the game in the third, nor the 16 baserunners after the first inning.
The result was still the same: Another road loss.
Jose Tabata's RBI double off the right-field wall with two outs in the 14th inning scored rookie Josh Rodriguez from first and sent the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 4-3 win over the Rockies on Friday night, ending the majors' longest game this season.
"It goes without saying that we had chances — a lot of them," manager Jim Tracy said.
Colorado went 31-50 away from Coors Field last season — a stark contrast from their 52-29 record at home — making it 17 out of 18 seasons the team finished with a losing record away from the Rocky Mountains.
They closed out last season on an eight-game road losing streak, and Tracy has repeatedly said that playing better on the road is imperative this season. Friday afternoon, he talked about how the team needed to be better at putting teams away.
This was not what he had in mind.
"There are going to be games here and there where it's like that," Tracy said. "You just don't want it to occur to the extent that it did last year, that's for sure."
Tabata's drive off Franklin Morales (0-1) — Colorado's eighth pitcher — gave the Pirates a dramatic win one day after they disappointed a sellout crowd on opening day.
"That's baseball, you know," Morales said. "I tried to make my pitch and I missed."
The Rockies squandered a 3-0 lead given to them by a Jason Giambi first-inning home run. The Rockies were unable to push another run across despite having several scoring chances.
"I think as a team we definitely thought that, 'G' hits that homer in the first and we're off to a good start," said Rockies closer Huston Street, who pitched three scoreless innings. "But that's baseball. Give credit to them for pitching well, making pitches when they needed to."
By the time Tabata delivered his game-winning double, Friday turned to Saturday, Helton went from being out of the lineup with a stiff back to in it as a pinch-hitter, and a crowd of 29,000 was reduced to a few die-hards.
Five hours. 14 innings. 15 pitchers. Great plays. Blown chances.
For a while, it looked as if the Pirates and Rockies would never stop playing.
It was the majors' longest — and wildest — game of the early season.
This one had a little bit of everything with managers having to dip deep into their bullpens and benches to get through the 5-hour, 11-minute marathon. Pirates reliever Evan Meek was the only available player who didn't get on the field and that was only because his shoulder tightened up earlier in the day.
"It was a long night for all of us, and you definitely don't want to be the guy that messed up," said Pirates reliever Chris Resop, who contributed three scoreless innings. "You just have to do what you can do, and keep going. We all did that tonight."
Garrett Olson (1-1) pitched two scoreless innings and Pittsburgh's relievers combined to shut out the Rockies for 11 1-3 innings.
Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez went 0 for 7.
For an early-season game, this one had a season's worth of twists, turns and drama. There were several outstanding plays, and a few boneheaded ones.
After Rodriguez drew his walk in the 14th, the Rockies could have put Tabata on to face Olson, who was due up next. But Tracy chose to let Morales face Pittsburgh's leadoff hitter, who made them pay with a shot that backed right fielder Seth Smith up to the wall. Smith couldn't reach it, and the Pirates ended Colorado's four-game winning streak.
In the 14th, Helton came up as a pinch-hitter and grounded to second for the final out.
The Pirates seemed dead and buried in the top of the 10th.
Colorado got the go-ahead run to third with one out, and the Rockies had the bases loaded with two down. Ty Wigginton hit a screamer down the third-base line that Pittsburgh's Pedro Alvarez snared backhanded, bounced to his feet and one-hopped his throw to get Wigginton.
"That's part of baseball; he made a great play," Wigginton said.
Pittsburgh scored its first run on Matt Diaz's RBI groundout in the fourth, and pulled to 3-2 in the fifth on Tabata's homer to straightaway center — only the Pirates' second hit. The speedy Tabata has hit safely in all eight games, and has quickly become a favorite of first-year manager Clint Hurdle.
Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa, who had to leave his season debut with a blister, gave up two runs and two hits in five innings. Tracy said he didn't believe De La Rosa was in danger of missing his next start.
NOTES: When he managed in Colorado, Hurdle was frequently asked about the mile-high altitude in Denver, where offensive numbers were inflated by the thin air and where pitchers were afraid to throw anything over the plate. "The altitude is real," Hurdle said, "but I think it is overplayed. You pitch well, you get outs." ... The Pirates are the only team in the majors scheduled to play 10 straight games without a day off to start the season.