Joyce's late jack helps Pirates trump Rockies

Joyce's late jack helps Pirates trump Rockies

DENVER -- Matt Joyce greeted Rockies reliever Scott Oberg with a three-run homer in the seventh as the Pirates earned a 6-1 victory on Monday night in a series opener that saw a 30-minute rain delay in the second inning at Coors Field.

Joyce's second homer of the season came right after Oberg -- in his first appearance of the season since being called up from Triple-A Albuquerque -- replaced Rockies starter Chad Bettis, who was charged with six hits and four runs in 6 2/3 innings.

"Bettis was tough, he really didn't give us a lot of mistakes," Joyce said of the need to jump on Oberg quickly. "As a hitter, you kind of make your money on the mistakes that the pitchers make. Fortunately enough, I was able to capitalize on a mistake made with some runners on base and that led to a big inning for us."

Joyce's swing made a winner of Pirates starter Jeff Locke, who went six scoreless innings, gave up five hits and struck out eight, although the Rockies loudly begged to differ with home-plate umpire Lance Barrett's calls on some of the five strikeouts looking.

Locke catches Raburn looking

"A few of them were generous, a few of them could go either way," Locke said of the called strikeouts. "I'm not a guy who gets a lot of strikeouts. I think it goes back to not being too predictable. I think a couple times today, [Nolan] Arenado thought we were going to go in, we went away."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Strikes and showers: Rockies manager Walt Weiss, after Nick Hundley took a called third strike in the fourth inning, and left fielder Ryan Raburn in the sixth earned ejections because of their strike-zone protests. More >

Weiss and Raburn get tossed

"You question balls and strikes and you're usually going to get tossed, but it's the same zone for both sides," said Weiss, who said he was protesting to keep Hundley from being ejected. "They [the Pirates] dealt with it a little bit better than we did."

Raburn, who demonstrated his displeasure with a first-inning called third strike, was walking away as he protested in the sixth and said the ejection surprised him.

"I guess you can't get mad anymore these days," Raburn said. "I was walking away and I guess he didn't like me being upset with it, and I got run."

Taking pitches: The Pirates' first two runs resulted from errant pitches by Bettis. He hit Josh Harrison leading off the fifth, then saw him advance to second on a single from Jordy Mercer and to third on a sacrifice bunt from Locke. John Jaso grounded to second to give the Pirates a small-ball run and a lead that held up. Bettis' second run came after a leadoff single to Gregory Polanco in the seventh. Polanco advanced to third on a fly ball to center and a grounder to first, then scored on a wild pitch from Bettis to make it 2-0.

Polanco scores on a wild pitch

Home-field advantage: A.J. Schugel, a local Colorado kid and the son of a big league scout, spent much of his youth at Coors Field, shagging flies in batting practice and soaking in the game. He came on with two out in the seventh in hopes of getting the game to the Pirates setup man Tony Watson and closer Mark Melancon, but Schlugel finished the game and earned his first big league save in his hometown park.

Schugel's first career save

"We were just looking to to get to the eighth and then we can get to Watson," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Then, we scored the runs, then we're thinking, 'can you stretch a little bit?' He was able to stretch completely for us."

Home-field disadvantage: The Rockies essentially doubled the height of the fence in front of the home bullpen from right field to almost center field, and in this case it cost the Rockies. Hundley hit an opposite-way, two-out triple in the eighth that would've been a home run last year. He was stranded at third when DJ LeMahieu flied out against Schugel to end the inning.

Hundley triples to right field

The fencing is to keep balls in the park and give pitchers a chance to escape. As luck would have it, the Rockies have hit all five balls off the new fence. On three occasions, the inning ended without the runner scoring.

QUOTABLE
"He got in such a strong, aggressive rhythm after the second inning. Fastball command, the intent, the conviction, the execution. He pitched very, very effectively, even in some deep counts. When it came go time, he made pitches." -- Hurdle, on Locke's stellar start

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Pirates have now won six straight at Coors Field dating to July 27, 2014.

The Rockies dropped to 1-3 on the seven-game homestand, and 4-6 at home -- where they must play well because of their historic road struggles.

Weiss on loss to Pirates

"It's important we finish up this homestand strong and play well," Weiss said. "They're a good club, but we've got to beat clubs like that."

BETTIS BETTER THAN RESULTS
Bettis was not happy with the finish to his start, and the homer given up by Oberg elevated his ERA to 3.77. Bettis had a similar hard-luck game in Cincinnati, a no-decision in his last start when the only three batters that reached ended up scoring on two homers. But the Rockies will take Bettis' overall solid work.

Chad Bettis makes play on comebacker

"We were right there," said Bettis, who helped his performance with a snag of Starling Marte's hard line drive in the sixth. "Those last two batters, I needed to be a little bit better. That being said, you take what you can, learn from it and move on."

Hundley was unequivocal in his praise.

"He used both sides of the plate really well, and he attacked," Hundley said. "I was very happy for him. I needed to block a ball there in the seventh, but he did a great job, gave us a chance to win."

WHAT'S NEXT
Pirates: Right-hander Gerrit Cole (1-2, 2.70 ERA) is looking to ride the momentum of six shutout innings in his previous outing in San Diego when he toes the rubber against Colorado on Tuesday at 8:40 p.m. ET. Active Rockies hitters are hitting a career .083 (2-for-24) against him, with both hits coming from Mark Reynolds, who has doubled and homered.

Rockies: Left-hander Jorge De La Rosa was all smiles in the clubhouse on Monday, after being given an extra day to recover from a stomach flu. Now, De La Rosa (1-2, 9.87) will look to recover from a rough start to the season when he faces the Pirates on Tuesday at 6:40 p.m. MT.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page.

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com based in Denver and covered the Pirates on Monday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.