PITTSBURGH (AP)—The Colorado Rockies are beginning to learn how to win on the road. They must be wondering if it’s too late.
The Rockies twice turned infield errors by Pittsburgh into multirun innings to back Denny Neagle’s effective pitching and hold off the Pirates 5-4 Saturday night.
The Rockies are 3-2 on their current road trip and have won seven of their last 12 on the road—modest numbers, to be sure, but a big improvement since they lost 22 of their first 28 away from Coors Field.
“If we want to do well, we’ve got to win on the road,” Neagle said. “Playing .500 on the road won’t do it anymore.”
The Rockies stayed in fourth place in the NL West, 7 1/2 games behind the division-leading Giants. However, the Rockies were recently surpassed by the Diamondbacks, who have won 10 straight.
Before their cross-country trip to San Diego and Pittsburgh began, the Rockies talked of going at least 4-2. They can do that by winning Sunday.
“We’ve got to go out and do it and prove to ourselves we can do it,” Todd Helton said. “Hopefully, we’ll get that much more confidence.”
The Pirates are only 14-24 at home, but had won six of their previous eight at PNC Park. Minutes after the game ended, they learned that first baseman Kevin Young, one of the team’s leaders, had been released. He has been with the Pirates most of the last 10 years.
“The hardest part for me is that I’m leaving the team in the same situation it was in 10 years ago,” said Young, a productive player for several seasons until being hit with a series of knee injuries.
Neagle (2-1), a former teammate of Young’s in Pittsburgh who was making his third start since missing most of the season with a sore elbow, won in Pittsburgh for the first time since Aug. 9, 1999. He gave up two runs and six hits in six innings before being lifted with a 5-2 lead after throwing 99 pitches—33 in the Pirates’ one-run first inning.
“No question, a lot of times there’s a turning point in the game— sometimes it’s the fourth or fifth,” Neagle said. “I couldn’t let the game get out of hand right there.”
Preston Wilson’s two-run double keyed Colorado’s three-run third inning against Kris Benson (5-8), who struggled again in losing for the fourth time in five decisions. Benson gave up 26 runs, 21 earned, and 33 hits in 18 2-3 innings in four June starts.
Since Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon challenged Benson to start pitching like a No. 1 starter following a 6-2 loss to Houston on May 15, Benson is 1-3 with a 7.08 ERA and has yielded 51 hits in 34 1-3 innings.
The Pirates took the 1-0 lead into the third, but Craig Wilson—making his first start of the season at first base—misplayed Juan Uribe’s one-out grounder to put runners on first and third with one out. Helton doubled in a run, extending his hitting streak to 13 games, ahead of Preston Wilson’s two-run double over the head of center fielder Kenny Lofton.
Lofton tried to make an over-the-shoulder catch as he neared the center-field wall, but the ball fell a few feet away on the warning track as both runners scored.
An inning later, Chris Stynes doubled and scored on Uribe’s two-out single. After Ronnie Belliard singled, third baseman Ramirez’s couldn’t handle Helton’s hard-hit grounder and was charged with his 16th error, scoring Uribe to make it 5-1.
Reggie Sanders led off the sixth with his 12th homer for the Pirates’ second run against Neagle, who was 0-1 with a 7.04 ERA in two previous starts at PNC Park.
After Neagle was lifted, the Pirates jumped on reliever Javier Lopez for three straight hits in the seventh. Brian Giles doubled in a run and Ramirez hit a sacrifice fly before reliever Justin Speier got out of the inning.
Speier retired all five batters he faced before Jimenez pitched the ninth.
The Rockies won for the seventh time in 10 games overall. The Pirates hadwon two in a row since dropping three straight.
Neagle is 4-3 in his career against Pittsburgh. … The Pirates are 3-8 against left-handed starters at PNC Park. They also have the same record at home against the NL West. … Helton is 21-of-53 (.396) during his hitting streak. … Pirates SS Jack Wilson is in a 1-for-26 slump. … Pirates reliever Julian Tavarez pitched a scoreless eighth, giving him 8 1-3 consecutive hitlessinnings. He also has pitched 12 consecutive scoreless innings.