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After Giambi’s homer, Rockies bats fall silent

Submitted by Sports on April 9, 2011 – 6:30 pmNo Comment

PITTSBURGH — Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez spent several minutes after Friday night’s 4-3, 14-inning loss to the Pirates staring at replays and shaking his head.

“I can’t even say the team that was better did not win, because we both played terrible,” said Gonzalez, who went 0-for-7 and 0-for-5 with three strikeouts with runners in scoring position. “They ended up winning the game. Even if we would’ve won the game, that was still a bad game.

“Of course, we’d take the win. But that was a terrible game.”

In blowing the opportunities the Pirates kept handing them, the Rockies barely resembled the team that began the season 4-1. For 5 hours, 11 minutes — the fourth-longest game in franchise history — Colorado instead looked like a club that lost 30 one-run games and went 31-50 on the road last season.

The solid offensive approach that had worked so well for the first week of the year disappeared after Jason Giambi’s three-run homer in the first inning off Pirates starter Ross Ohlendorf, who left with two outs in the third inning with right shoulder discomfort.

Pirates reliever Jeff Karstens replaced Ohlendorf and held the Rockies to two hits and struck out five in 3 1/3 innings to touch off a stellar bullpen effort. Relievers managed 12 of the 15 strikeouts. The Rockies also went 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position, with Giambi’s homer the only success.

“We couldn’t do anything, once we got the three-run home run by Giambi in the first inning,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said.

In fairness, the Pirates made two key plays in the 11th to give themselves a chance, after Jonathan Herrera doubled and took third on a wild pitch. Shortstop Ronny Cedeno leaped to grab Gonzalez’s hard liner for the first out and, with two down and the bases loaded, Ty Wigginton hit a hard grounder down the third-base line, but Pedro Alvarez dove for it and threw out Wigginton from his knees.

The game was odd all the way to the winning run.

The Rockies’ first two hitters in the 14th reached on errors by shortstop Josh Rodriguez and winning pitcher Garrett Olson (1-1). However, Herrera, who reached four times in his first start of the season, couldn’t execute a bunt and flied out to center, after which Gonzalez struck out. Then, with the pitcher’s spot behind him, Troy Tulowitzki took an intentional walk.

Todd Helton, who was scratched from the lineup before the game because of lower back soreness, weakly grounded out.

After Rockies reliever Franklin Morales (0-1), the eighth pitcher the team used, walked Rodriguez with two out, Jose Tabata came to the plate. Tabata had homered in the fifth against starting pitcher Jorge De La Rosa, who gave up two runs and two hits in five innings, but left with a middle finger blister for the second time in as many starts this season.

Behind Tabata was the pitcher’s spot, and Pirates manager Clint Hurdle had no choice but to go with Olson, 1-for-6 in nine career at-bats. The last Bucs reliever remaining, Evan Meek, was not available to throw, Hurdle revealed after the game.

Hurdle sent Andrew McCutchen, who was due to hit two batters after Tabata, to the on-deck circle. Rather than say he did it to keep the Rockies from noticing the next turn was going to be taken by Olson, who hasn’t batted since 2009, Hurdle explained the move creatively.

“We put him up there just to help with a play at the plate,” Hurdle said. “He has more experience, rather than have Garrett try to figure that out. Garrett — we wanted to keep him as far away from the plate as we could until he had to hit.”

Tracy said there was risk in walking Tabata.

“To walk him into scoring position — you know something, I know they have somebody over there that maybe takes a swing and not have to hit the ball very far at all to end up winning the game,” Tracy said.

The Rockies decided to pitch to Tabata, who lofted a fly ball to right that kept carrying to the wall. Rodriguez scored from first. Now, the teams have split the first two games of a series of four.

Morales didn’t think the game was over when the ball came off Tabata’s bat.

“I thought that was a fly ball to the outfield,” Morales said. “That’s the game.”

Helton’s injury set in motion an odd game. Giambi went 2-for-3, but had an error defensively and left after a single in the sixth inning. Ian Stewart, who didn’t start because of flu-like symptoms, took his spot in the order, but left the game because of dizziness. That led to that particular place in the order, right behind Tulowitzki, going to the pitcher.

In his last three times up, Tulowitzki took an intentional walk in the 10th, popped out in the 12th and took another intentional walk in the 14th. He admitted he took the 12th-inning at-bat unsure the Pirates’ Chris Resop would pitch to him. After Tulowitzki’s fly ball, reliever Huston Street took his second career at-bat and drove a pitch to right-center for an out.

Street, who has three saves but has faced traffic each time, went three innings, 1/3 of an inning shy of his career longest outing. He struck out two, gave up one hit and was efficient.

“I threw three innings, but I wish we would’ve won,” Street said.

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