Pirates try to get their bats going in Colorado

The Pittsburgh Pirates hope to get the bat on the ball when they shift focus to the Colorado Rockies tonight in the opener of a three-game series at Coors Field.

The Pirates matched a franchise record for a nine-inning game with 17 strikeouts in Sunday's 4-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers in the finale of a three-game series at Miller Park. Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo fanned 14 Pittsburgh batters en route to the victory, while Pirates starter A.J. Burnett had his personal winning streak stopped with seven innings of four-run ball.

Burnett was 9-0 over his last 12 starts and hadn't lost since May 2 at St. Louis.

"That's probably the best stuff I've had in a long time," Burnett said on the club's website. "I tried to minimize the damage the best I could, but a couple runs in the sixth, that's the ballgame."

Andrew McCutchen, who leads the majors in hitting with a .371 average, homered for the fourth consecutive game for the Pirates, who dropped a series for the first time since they were swept by the Baltimore Orioles June 12-14. The All- Star outfielder is batting .560 with seven home runs, 19 runs scored and 16 RBI in the past 12 games.

Pittsburgh has still won 11 of its last 15 contests and sits one game behind Cincinnati for the NL Central lead. Neil Walker went 1-for-4 Sunday to extend his hitting streak to 15 games. He is three games shy of his career-best hitting streak established in 2010.

Jeff Karstens draws the start for the Buccos tonight and he has won back-to- back trips to the hill. He recently held Houston scoreless through eight innings and struck out eight in a 2-0 win on July 5, improving to 2-2 in six starts and lowering his earned run average to 3.94.

Karstens has made three career relief appearances against Colorado and the right-hander has no record and a 3.52 ERA over 7 2/3 innings.

Colorado lost two in a row to Philadelphia after winning three of four games, and will resume its six-game homestand Monday.

In Sunday's 5-1 setback to the Phillies in the finale of a three-game series, Drew Pomeranz took the loss and was tagged for five runs and five hits in five innings of work. He allowed a three-run homer to Hunter Pence in the fifth.

"If I could go back again, I probably would have thrown something different," Pomeranz said.

Carlos Gonzalez drove in a run and Dexter Fowler added two hits in defeat. The Rockies went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and stranded five.

Taking the mound for Colorado tonight will be Jeff Francis. The lefty, in his second go-around with the club, is 2-2 with a 5.19 ERA in seven starts and had a personal two-game winning streak stopped in a 4-1 loss at Washington on July 7. Francis lasted five innings and gave up three runs and six hits.

Francis has made six career starts against Pittsburgh, going 3-3 with a lofty 6.88 earned run average.

Colorado dropped two of three meetings with Pittsburgh at PNC Park in April.