Pirates hope to continue winning in Colorado

( - The Pittsburgh Pirates know they are going to have to keep racking up series victories to avoid falling behind in the tight National League Central.

The Pirates had no trouble taking care of a hosting Colorado squad last weekend and hope that success continues on Friday night when they begin another three-game set with the Rockies.

Pittsburgh had lost five of seven before welcoming Colorado to town last Friday. The Pirates followed that up by winning a trio of close games over the Rockies to get on track, then took two of three over the Los Angeles Dodgers to begin this week.

That 5-1 stretch has helped Pittsburgh stay within three games of Milwaukee for first place in the division.

"We plan on winning every series," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Our guys overall played a better series."

Hurdle is hopeful third baseman Pedro Alvarez can return to the lineup tonight after he sat out Wednesday's 6-1 win over the Dodgers with a sore left knee suffered the previous game while running the bases. His absence from the lineup came on the same day that outfielder Starling Marte was placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list.

The Rockies have their own injury concerns, with Michael Cuddyer, Troy Tulowitzki and Justin Morneau all out.

That has put some pressure on outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who has responded by going just 7-for-32 in eight games since coming back from finger surgery. He was given a game off to rest on Wednesday and Colorado managed a 6-4 win over the Washington Nationals to avoid a three-game sweep and snap a seven-game slide.

Gonzalez has one home run since coming back from his injury and that came against tonight's starter for the Pirates, Charlie Morton, last Saturday.

In a no-decision, Morton gave up two runs on five hits and a walk in seven innings of Pittsburgh's 3-2 victory over Colorado. His lone mistake was to Gonzalez, who deposited a curveball over the wall with a runner on to put the Rockies up 2-1 in the seventh inning, though Pittsburgh rallied and won the contest in 11 innings.

"It was middle, hung it," Morton told Pittsburgh's website. "Curveball has been there for me all year, I just didn't execute it."

Still, the 30-year-old righty remained unbeaten against the Rockies at 2-0 with a 3.16 earned run average in five meetings. He is 5-9 with a 3.28 ERA on the season, including 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA in four starts this month.

Brett Anderson squared off against Morton last Saturday and will do so again tonight. Anderson's outing versus the Pirates was the best of the season of the lefty, who has made just five starts due to a broken index finger suffered in April.

The righty logged seven innings of one-run ball last weekend, scattering four hits and a walk while striking out eight. He settled down to retire 12 in a row after giving up an RBI double to Gaby Sanchez in the fourth inning.

"His breaking ball was real good," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said of his starter on Colorado's website. "He's got a great breaking ball and used it well tonight. I think he went to it especially late, when maybe he was getting a little fatigued."

The 26-year-old southpaw is 0-3 with a 4.00 ERA on the year and last Saturday's meeting marked the first time he had faced the Pirates in his career.