Pirates-Rockies Preview

The Associated Press

The Pittsburgh Pirates are eager to get back to playing the way they were before the All-Star break.

They'd be fine, however, if scheduled starter Erik Bedard didn't pick up from where he left off.

The Pirates, losers of Bedard's last five starts, try to avoid dropping their third in a row Tuesday night against the Colorado Rockies.

Pittsburgh (49-40) finished the season's first half on a 10-2 surge to take a division lead into the break for the first time since 1997. Having dropped three of four since the Midsummer Classic, though, the Pirates are now a game back of NL Central-leading Cincinnati.

Pittsburgh made things interesting Monday after Pedro Alvarez hit a game-tying three-run homer in the ninth inning on the first pitch following a 53-minute rain delay. The Rockies (35-54) didn't flinch, though, and won 5-4 on Dexter Fowler's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth.

"We knew we were going to put something together," said Fowler, batting .438 in his last eight games.

Andrew McCutchen had a relatively quiet game with a pair of singles, raising his major league-leading average to .372, but his four-game homer streak came to an end. He is batting .556 with seven home runs and 16 RBIs in his last 13 games.

Neil Walker has also been swinging a hot bat, hitting .476 with eight doubles and 14 RBIs during a 16-game hitting streak, but his play has been overshadowed by McCutchen's.

Led by those two, the Pirates have the NL's top offense since June 1 with 216 runs and 58 homers, but Bedard (4-10, 4.80 ERA) hasn't been able to take advantage.

He has an 8.16 ERA in losing his last three starts, and is 0-4 with a 7.99 ERA in his last five since beating Kansas City on June 8. Through 17 starts, the left-hander is already one defeat away from matching his career high, set while playing for Baltimore in 2006, when he made a career-high 33 starts.

"We'll look at the tape and try to get things figured out over the break,'' manager Clint Hurdle said after Bedard was knocked around for five runs in 3 2-3 innings of a 6-5 loss to San Francisco on July 6.

While Bedard has had trouble pitching at PNC Park, he has been especially brutal away from Pittsburgh, recording a 9.51 ERA in losing his last five road starts. This will be his first appearance at hitter-friendly Coors Field and first time facing Carlos Gonzalez, who is batting .429 with seven homers, nine doubles and 22 RBIs during a 23-game home hitting streak.

Colorado, which ranks second in the NL in runs with 430 and has scored at least five in three of its four games since the break, will give the ball to Christian Friedrich (5-6, 5.60).

Friedrich gave up a run and five hits while striking out seven in six innings of Friday's 6-2 home victory over Philadelphia, his first win since June 4. Despite going 0-5 with a 7.85 ERA in six starts between victories, he still leads the Rockies in wins.

The rookie left-hander is finally starting to look comfortable at Coors, allowing a run in each of his last two starts there after posting an 11.64 ERA in his first four.

Bedard made his only career start against the Rockies on June 10, 2007, giving up three runs in five innings of a 6-1 loss for the Orioles.

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