The Pittsburgh Pirates are becoming a factor in the postseason race, even though they have virtually no shot of playing past September.
Coming off one of their best games at the plate this season, the Pirates look to deal the Colorado Rockies’ playoff chances another blow when the teams conclude a four-game set Thursday at Coors Field.
Pittsburgh (54-71) has won four of its last five games, all against teams in the NL wild-card race. The Pirates won the final two games of their series with Philadelphia over the weekend, and have taken two of the first three games against Colorado (64-62).
The Pirates, who have the NL’s worst record, hit a season-high six home runs and collected 17 hits to beat the Rockies 11-2 on Wednesday night.
Nate McLouth hit a pair of home runs and Jack Wilson, Xavier Nady, Jason Bay and Freddy Sanchez also connected for the Pirates, who had hit 112 home runs going into Wednesday to rank fifth from the bottom in the league.
“The way we’ve been swinging the bats all month, we feed off what the other guys are doing,” McLouth said. “We’ve been getting good pitches to hit and we haven’t been missing.”
Colorado, which has lost five of seven, has fallen 3 1/2 games behind San Diego in the wild-card race.
“Right now we can’t look behind. We have to look ahead,” Colorado manager Clint Hurdle said.
Rockies pitchers had a 2.36 ERA in four games prior to Wednesday’s contest. Colorado’s main problem has been at the plate - scoring three runs or less in three of the last four games - and Hurdle tried to spark the team by using his third different lineup of the series.
Kaz Matsui returned to the leadoff spot and second base after sitting out Tuesday, and first baseman Todd Helton was given a day off. Helton will likely be back in the lineup Thursday as the Rockies try to give Franklin Morales (0-0, 1.69 ERA) some run support.
The 21-year-old left-hander lasted 5 1-3 innings in his major league debut, allowing a run and five hits while striking out four and walking none in Colorado’s 7-4 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday night.
The Pirates will counter with Paul Maholm (9-14, 4.53). In his only career start against the Rockies, the right-hander gave up four runs and 11 hits in five innings of a 6-4 loss on June 6, 2006.
Maholm gave up six runs and 10 hits in seven innings against Philadelphia on Saturday night, but earned a win in Pittsburgh’s 11-6 victory. It was one of three times in seven games that the Pirates have scored at least 10 runs, including Wednesday’s win.
Sanchez had four hits for the fourth time this season, and is batting .417 (10-for-24) with two home runs and nine RBIs in his last five games.
Adam LaRoche, though, was the only Pirates regular to go hitless Wednesday, ending a nine-game hitting streak. The first baseman went 13-for-25 (.520) in his previous six contests.