Ahead of a big NL Central showdown next week, the Pittsburgh Pirates will try to avoid getting swept by the Colorado Rockies in Sunday's finale of a three-game series.
After taking two of three at home from the Rockies last weekend, the Pirates had won seven of the previous 10 encounters but will now try to avoid getting swept in this series for the first time since a three-game set in Colorado from June 19-21, 2009.
The Pirates had won five in a row before getting routed 10-1 in Friday's opener. Things were closer last night, but Pittsburgh could not complete a rally and fell in defeat 6-4.
The Rockies broke the game open with a five-run sixth inning, but the Pirates had the tying runs on base in the ninth after Colorado's Rex Brothers walked Gaby Sanchez prior to a one-out single by Alex Presley. Neil Walker then chased home Sanchez with a single, but Brothers recovered to strike out two of Pittsburgh's best hitters -- Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez -- to secure his ninth save of the season.
"We fight back, scratch back, and we get the go-ahead run to the plate in the ninth and Brothers was able to close the door," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who was ejected in the seventh inning for arguing a play at second base.
Pittsburgh also exited the game a bit bruised, with Starling Marte getting hit by a pitch on his left hand in the seventh frame. He left the contest, but Hurdle said X-rays were negative and he is day-to-day with a contusion.
Alvarez, meanwhile, suffered an injury to his left hand in the sixth inning when he attempted to tag Colorado's Dexter Fowler as the outfielder slid into the bag at third.
"He caught a spike on his index finger on his glove hand," Hurdle said, "but he was able to stay in the game. He took some swings and we'll see how he feels tomorrow."
Hurdle could opt to rest both hitters with an off day looming on Monday. Pittsburgh will then visit St. Louis for three games and currently holds a four-game edge over the Cardinals for first place in the NL Central.
For the Rockies, they had lost five in a row ahead of this series and got a tie-breaking, two-run single from Fowler in the fruitful sixth. Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon each added a run-scoring double in the rally.
"We got some clutch hits," Colorado manager Walt Weiss said. "Put together a lot of great at-bats tonight against some real good pitching."
Set to make his third career start and first at home, Chad Bettis squares off against the Pirates for the first time.
The Rockies righty, who spent most of the season with Double-A Tulsa, lost his MLB debut on Aug. 1, giving up five runs over five innings at Atlanta. He then faced the New York Mets on Tuesday and yielded just two runs on four hits over five innings of a no-decision.
An encouraging sign for the 22-year-old was that he walked just one in New York after issuing five free passes versus the Braves.
"Chad settled in well. ... He did a nice job giving us a shot to win," Weiss said of his starter.
Pittsburgh's Jeff Locke will face the Rockies for the first time in his career today and brings a 1.83 earned run average on the road to Coors Field.
After giving up two earned runs or fewer in eight straight starts, Locke has yielded seven runs and 19 hits over consecutive no-decisions to St. Louis and Miami. However, Pittsburgh has won both contests.
The left-handed Locke gave up three runs on nine hits and three walks over 5 2/3 frames versus the Marlins on Tuesday. The 25-year-old stands 9-3 with a 2.47 ERA in 22 starts this season.