PITTSBURGH (AP)—Freddy Sanchez’s rapid ascent from role player to clutch star has been so impressive he will have a bobblehead doll.
Sanchez’s RBI double in the eighth inning gave Pittsburgh the lead and the Pirates went on to a 3-1 victory over Colorado on Monday night, the Rockies’ eighth straight loss.
“We’ve talked about this guy a lot, and I said weeks ago that I have run out of words to describe how good of an offensive player this guy is,” Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. “He’s just fantastic.”
Sanchez, the league’s leading hitter, raised his average from .360 to .363 with two hits—the second of which was a double into the right field corner off Byung-Hyun Kim (5-6) that came after Jack Wilson doubled to left with one out in the eighth.
Sanchez and Wilson both had two hits for the Pirates, who have won three of four since the All-Star break.
“I was just looking for a good pitch to hit out over the plate,” said Sanchez, who began the season as a backup to Joe Randa at third but made the All-Star team. “That’s what you play for, to hit in situations like that to give your team a chance to win.”
During the game, the Pirates announced that Sept. 30 will be Freddy Sanchez All-Star Bobblehead Night.
Sanchez downplayed that meant he has arrived, saying he hopes the team— which had the major league’s worst record at the All-Star break—will arrive instead.
“Hopefully there’s no more, ‘Well, we’re still learning from this,”’ Sanchez said. “It’s time to execute and get the job done.”
“It feels pretty good,” said Capps, who leads all rookies with 50 appearances. “It was fun, a good experience.”
The go-ahead runs were scored a half-inning after the Rockies appeared to be on the verge of breaking a 1-1 tie that had endured since the third.
Garrett Atkins hit a double to the gap in right-center—his third hit of the game—off John Grabow (2-1) with Todd Helton on first. But center fielder Batista made a strong relay throw to second baseman Jose Castillo, who quickly got the ball home to Ronny Paulino, who blocked enough of the plate to barely tag out Helton in time.
“I don’t know if there’s another player in the game who can make a throw from that distance and that is that accurate,” Tracy said of Castillo. “That play was executed to perfection. It took a perfect throw from the outfielder and a perfect throw from the cutoff man.”
Helton was the only the second runner on either team to get as far as third base after the third inning, as Kim and Pittsburgh starter Kip Wells combined for six 1-2-3 innings.
Nate McLouth scored the game’s first run when he doubled to lead off the bottom of the first, advanced to third on Wilson’s groundout and scored on a passed ball by J.D. Closser.
“To be a good team you have to work out of these types of situations,” Closser said. “Right now we’re in one of those. But you never know, it could happen any day. We’re out there battling and playing hard, so things are going to turn around for us.”
Clint Barmes tied it with one out in the third with a homer into the left field corner, his sixth. It was Barmes’ third home run in his last six games after going 98 at-bats without one.
Wells, who missed almost three months at the start of the season after surgery in March to repair a blocked artery in his right arm, had allowed 23 earned runs in 16 2-3 innings in four starts this season—all losses.
He enjoyed easily his best start of the season, allowing one run and seven hits in seven innings, walking two and striking out four.
“That’s the Kip Wells we need to see,” Sanchez said. “It was a great outing tonight.”
Kim worked a career-high 7 1-3 innings and tied a career high with nine strikeouts, a feat he had accomplished twice before.
“He’s been on a roll all season,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. “He continued to do the things he can do and we’ve asked him to try to focus on doing. That’s very encouraging. Our starting rotation the last few weeks has been impressive—look at the lines. We just have to find a way to start tightening things up, capitalizing on them on offense and in the bullpen.”
The Pirates had managed at least 10 hits in each of their previous eight home games. … Pittsburgh is 16-7 all-time against Colorado at PNC Park— the best winning percentage (.696) against any team that has played there more than six times. … Sanchez has hit safely in 26 of his last 29 starts. … Kim had pitched seven innings in a game 11 times in his career.