Pirates avoid the sweep, pound Rockies at PNC
David Freese stressed the need of a culture change inside the Pittsburgh Pirates clubhouse during spring training, one that focused more on creating a greater sense of urgency and accountability when things go awry.
Given a rare start with his club facing the prospect of getting swept by Colorado, Freese backed up his words with his bat. The veteran third baseman worked a two-out walk in the fourth to start a rally and added a two-run double as the Pirates had little trouble with the Rockies in a 10-2 win on Wednesday.
Pirates manager gave regulars Corey Dickerson, Gregory Polanco and Colin Moran the day off. Their replacements — Freese, left fielder Sean Rodriguez and second baseman Max Moroff — drove in five of Pittsburgh’s 10 runs as the Pirates improved to 8-0 in day games.
“You have your everyday guys getting a little breather, you want to take pride in stepping up and make it seem like a seamless transition when your everyday guys get a break,” Freese said. “Me, Sean and Max got in there and today was a day we kind of showed up and kept it going.”
Josh Bell drove in three runs and Adam Frazier had three of Pittsburgh’s 13 hits as the NL Central leaders broke out after being limited to just two runs in their previous two games against the Rockies.
“It breeds confidence on the bench,” Bell said. “It breeds confidence with guys coming in in different situations.”
Chad Kuhl (2-1) surrendered Chris Iannetta’s solo home run in the third but otherwise kept Colorado’s struggling offense in check. He labored at times through the first five innings but finished with a flourish, retiring the Rockies in order in the sixth to cap his longest start of the season.
“I looked up and saw I had 87 pitches (after five),” Kuhl said. “All I focused on was make these (final pitches) count.”
Kyle Freeland (0-3) cruised through the first three innings but ran into trouble in the fourth. Freese worked a two-out walk off and Rodriguez followed with a shot that just cleared the wall in left field for his second home run this season. Max Moroff added an RBI double two batters later to put the Pirates up 3-1.
Freeland was pulled in favor of Scott Oberg after giving up singles to Frazier and Jordy Mercer starting the fifth. Oberg couldn’t get out of the jam, surrendering an RBI single to Bell. Freese followed with a double to the gap in left-center.
Freeland was charged with five runs, six hits and two walks in four-plus innings, needing 91 pitches to get 12 outs.
“I wasn’t getting ahead of hitters and I didn’t have a good feel for my fastball, especially the sinker,” Freeland said. “It just wasn’t there.”
Colorado went 5-2 on a swing through Washington and Pittsburgh, thanks in large part to its pitching. The offense has struggled while third baseman Nolan Arenado served a five-game suspension for his role in a brawl with San Diego earlier this month. Colorado entered last in the NL in batting (.215) and didn’t improve against Kuhl and two relievers.
The Rockies had just two extra base hits on Wednesday, or one more than newly acquired Pittsburgh reliever Enny Romero, who doubled in the eighth in his second big league at-bat.
Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez tweaked his right hamstring in the fourth while making a diving catch on a sinking liner by Pittsburgh’s Starling Marte. Gerardo Parra replaced Gonzalez in the fifth. Manager Bud Black called the move precautionary. Gonzalez said it was the first time in years he’s felt pain in his hamstring and isn’t certain if he’ll be available when the Rockies begin a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs on Friday.
Pirates: RHP Joe Musgrove is expected to throw 25-30 pitches during a bullpen session on Thursday as he works his way back from a strained right shoulder. If Musgrove gets through the session without any issues, he may throw another session over the weekend then do a simulated game before the team considers sending him out for rehab starts in the minors.
Rockies: Jon Gray (1-3, 6.23 ERA) will start for Colorado on Friday against Chicago’s Kyle Hendricks (0-1, 3.71).
Pirates: Head to Philadelphia for a four-game series with the Phillies starting Thursday. Jameson Taillon (2-0, 0.89) faces Jake Arrieta (1-0, 3.38).