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Slumping Tabata sparks Pirates past Rockies

The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH -- Perhaps the Pirates' answer to their right-field hole is already on their roster.

Slumping Jose Tabata had three hits, including his first home run since May 11, and Francisco Liriano pitched seven strong, if somewhat wild, innings to lead the Pirates to a 5-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night at PNC Park.

Tabata came into the game hitting just .253 as his batting average was dragged down by a .229 performance in July, a big reason why Pirates general manager Neal Huntington tried to acquire a right fielder before Wednesday's nonwaiver trading deadline.

However, Tabata went 3-for-4 with a triple and homer and scored twice. His leadoff home run in the fourth inning off Jorge De La Rosa was his first in 37 games and 112 plate appearances and just his third of the season.

"We've seen Jose swing the bat like this before and be productive over the last few years," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Hopefully, he will get hot. We need one of our right fielders to get hot down the stretch."

Liriano (12-4) limited the Rockies to two hits over seven innings, though he walked five and struck out six. Liriano is 7-1 with a 1.65 ERA in his last eight starts with 51 strikeouts and just two home runs allowed in 54 2/3 innings.

"What can I say?" he said. "Everything is going good for me and good for the team. I'm not really thinking about it too much. I'm just going out and pitching and trying to be aggressive and get people out. It's working out well for me and it is working out for well for the team because we're winning."

Gaby Sanchez had two hits and two RBIs for National League Central-leading Pittsburgh while Jordy Mercer and Andrew McCutchen also had two hits each.

Mark Melancon, filling in as the closer with Jason Grilli on the disabled list, pitched a perfect ninth inning for his sixth save in seven opportunities.

De La Rosa (10-6) took the loss a day after Colorado owner Dick Monfort said the Rockies would exercise the $11-million option for 2014 in the left-hander's contract. De La Rosa lasted just four innings and allowed three runs and six hits with three strikeouts and two walks.

De La Rosa, who was rocked for a season-high eight runs in his previous start Monday at Atlanta, has given up three runs or less in 10 of his last 11 starts.

"Jorge didn't have very good command," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "It was a struggle for him from the start."

Colorado lost for the fifth time in six games and went 0-for-9 with runners on base when Liriano was in the game.

"We had some opportunities early but like most of the good ones, once he settled in he was tough," Weiss said. "He had a good changeup and his command was pretty good even though he walked some guys."

Liriano said the biggest lesson he has learned in his first season with the Pirates is how to stay calm on the mound. That showed in tight situations Saturday night.

"When I walk people it's because I'm overthrowing," Liriano said. "When guys got on base, I told myself to slow down and make pitches, not try to do too much."

Pittsburgh scored the game's first run in the third inning when Starling Marte hit a leadoff single, stole second, moved to third on Mercer's ground out and scored when McCutchen hit a double high off the right-field wall.

Tabata made it 2-0 when he led off the fourth with his home run.

The Pirates wound up scoring one run in five consecutive innings. Tabata led off the sixth with a triple over center fielder Dexter Fowler's head and came home on Josh Harrison's squeeze bunt while Sanchez had RBI singles in the fifth and seventh.

Troy Tulowitzki and Michael Cuddyer hit consecutive RBI singles in the eighth to account for the Rockies' two runs.

NOTES: Colorado LF Carlos Gonzalez missed his fourth straight game with a sprained right middle finger. He hopes to play Sunday. ... Cuddyer returned to the team after missing two games to tend to a family emergency and started at first base as 1B Todd Helton was rested after starting eight straight games. ... Colorado RHP Roy Oswalt, who is on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, was forced to stop a simulated game after facing two batters because he felt tightness in the hamstring. ... Pittsburgh C Russell Martin sat out for the second time in three games because of a sore left knee. ... Pirates 3B Pedro Alvarez got his first day off since June 1, a span of 45 games. ... The three-game series concludes Sunday afternoon with Rockies RHP Juan Nicasio (6-5, 4.92) facing Pirates RHP A.J. Burnett (4-7, 2.86).
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