Pirates-Rockies Preview

The Associated Press

The best pitching staff in baseball has fallen on hard times at Coors Field, though that could change when the Pittsburgh Pirates give the ball to All-Star Jeff Locke.

Locke looks to continue his road dominance Sunday when the Pirates try to avoid getting swept by a Colorado Rockies team that hasn't won three straight in nearly three months.

Dexter Fowler and Wilin Rosario had two hits apiece, and Colorado put up five runs in the sixth inning en route to a 6-4 victory Saturday.

Now the Rockies (54-64) hope to finish off a three-game sweep for the first time since taking a set from the Mets from April 16-18. They haven't won three in a row overall since May 21-24.

The NL Central-leading Pirates (70-46) have lost two straight following a five-game winning streak and could be without Starling Marte in the series finale. Marte, who is 6 for 10 with four walks over his last three games, is day-to-day after being struck near his left hand by a pitch in the seventh inning Saturday.

"X-rays were taken and it's a contusion,'' manager Clint Hurdle said of Marte.

After totaling six runs and batting .205 during a five-game losing streak, the Rockies have compiled 16 runs and 26 hits against a Pittsburgh team sporting a major league-best 3.15 ERA. Rosario has keyed the effort by going 5 for 9 with a homer, double and four RBIs in this series.

Colorado has batted .222 against left-handers since June 29, but went 12 for 19 with a home run and two doubles versus Francisco Liriano in Friday's 10-1 victory. They might have a tough time repeating that performance against Locke (9-3, 2.47 ERA), who will try to prevent the Pirates from losing for the sixth time in seven road games.

The left-hander has been outstanding on the road, going 5-1 with a 1.43 ERA and allowing two home runs over 63 innings in his last 10 starts there. Locke has limited opponents to a .185 batting average pitching on the road, trailing only Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers (.175) and Tony Cingrani of the Cincinnati Reds (.177) in the NL.

Locke allowed three runs and nine hits over 5 2-3 innings in a 4-3 home win over Miami on Tuesday. He did not fare in the decision after pinch-hitter Josh Harrison hit a walk-off home run in the ninth.

"There are lessons to be learned for him,'' Hurdle said. "He's always got to be the predator and the aggressor."

Colorado starter Chad Bettis (0-1, 6.30) will try for his first career victory in his first home start.

The rookie right-hander surrendered two runs and four hits over five innings before leaving without a decision in a 3-2 loss to the Mets on Tuesday.

Bettis said he felt calmer than he did in his debut when he walked five and was tagged for five runs and six hits - including two home runs - over five innings in an 11-2 loss at Atlanta on Aug. 1.

"I was able to see a lot more hitters' responses to certain pitches, stuff like that," Bettis said. "So yeah, I think it's getting there.''

He'll attempt to cool off Russell Martin, who went 3 for 4 Saturday and is 12 for 25 (.480) in his last seven road contests.

Teammate Andrew McCutchen had gone 12 for 19 (.632) during a seven-game hitting streak before going 0 for 4 on Saturday.

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