Defense key as Pirates edge Rockies

Defense key as Pirates edge Rockies

PITTSBURGH -- Throwing seven strong innings, oddly, without a strikeout, right-hander Gerrit Cole worked his way out of trouble and led the Pirates to a 2-1 win over the Rockies on Friday night at PNC Park.

Cole scattered 10 hits but limited the Rockies' lineup to just one run: Nolan Arenado's Major League-leading 14th home run, a sixth-inning no-doubter to left field. It was Cole's first start without a strikeout, but he managed to pitch effectively for seven full innings by relying on Pittsburgh's defense, which delivered in several key moments.

"You've just got to go out there and figure it out," said Cole, who improved to 5-3 with a 2.79 ERA. "When your defense is playing hot like that, [catcher Francisco Cervelli is] mixing it up enough to keep them hitting it at our guys, just roll with it."

The Pirates escaped the first two innings on a couple of line-drive double plays. With the bases loaded and one out in the fourth, first baseman John Jaso and second baseman Josh Harrison scooped up a pair of ground balls to end the inning. Left fielder Starling Marte unleashed a 100.6 mph throw -- per Statcast™ -- to nail Dustin Garneau at the plate, the would-be tying run in the seventh inning.

"I'm thinking if he goes, we got an out. And he went," Cole said. "Marte's as good as anybody out there in left field."

Freese starts double play

Rockies right-hander Eddie Butler kept the Pirates in check for most of the night, but Gregory Polanco opened the scoring with an RBI groundout in the first inning and David Freese delivered a go-ahead single to center with two outs and two strikes in the sixth, driving in Marte from second base.

"He took some swings at some pitches up, already, and he ends up breaking his bat and it finds a hole," Butler said. "Not much to do about that. Most of the time we get him to pop it up or he swings through it."

Freese's RBI single

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Don't run on Starling Marte: Marte led all National League outfielders last year with 16 assists, one reason he was awarded his first Gold Glove Award last winter. But the Rockies still tested him in the seventh inning, sending Garneau from second base on Charlie Blackmon's single to left. Marte reached back and fired a strike home -- 232.3 feet and 100.6 mph, according to Statcast™ -- to Cervelli. Cole pointed out to Marte, signaling his praise, and Cervelli pumped his fist after cutting down the potential tying run.

"The ball one-hopped him, and he's got a freakin' cannon," Garneau said. More >

It can be one little thing: Butler escaped in the third after the first two hitters singled, and he stranded Jordy Mercer after his leadoff triple in the fifth. However, with one out in the sixth, Marte singled and Butler let him take second with a bad pickoff throw. Marte scored the go-ahead run on Freese's single.

"Just a bad throw -- that lost us the game right there," Butler said. More >

High-wire escape: After recording the first out of the fourth inning, Cole sandwiched his only walk of the night between a pair of singles. With that, the Rockies had loaded the bases and given themselves a chance to break the Bucs' 1-0 lead. Gerardo Parra hit a hard grounder to Jaso, who zipped an accurate throw home to Cervelli for the force out. Up came D.J. LeMahieu, whose grounder was scooped up by Harrison for the last out of the inning.

"It's stellar defense," Cole said. More >

Cole strands the bases loaded

Hard hit, not hard luck: The first two Rockies innings ended with line-drive double plays off the bats of Carlos Gonzalez and DJ LeMahieu, respectively, and the Rockies couldn't convert with loaded bases and one out in the fourth. But Arenado left nothing to chance in the sixth, when he lined Cole's 1-0, 94-mph fastball into the left-field seats to tie the game. More >

QUOTABLE
"It's fun to come to the yard when you're winning. I don't know if we're playing our best ball or not, but we're winning ballgames. That's what matters." -- Freese, on the Pirates winning five of their last six

"It seemed like there was an invisible shield at home plate for both teams for a while." -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle

REPLAY REVIEW
Butler tried to make up for the bad pickoff in the sixth with another attempt at Marte, this time at second. Shortstop Trevor Story made a leaping, athletic tag. Marte was ruled safe, and the call withstood Rockies manager Walt Weiss' challenge.

Marte safe on pickoff attempt

A crew chief review in the eighth briefly gave the Rockies life when replay determined that Gonzalez beat a potential inning-ending double play behind Pirates reliever Tony Watson. However, Mark Reynolds grounded out to end the frame.

Gonzalez safe at first

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Andrew McCutchen's first-inning double off the right-field wall was his 613th career hit at PNC Park, surpassing Jack Wilson's previous record of 612 in the Pirates' home ballpark. McCutchen already owns the record for career homers at PNC Park, with 76.

"It's good for him. Those kinds of things are milestones," Hurdle said. "You've got to be healthy, No. 1. You've got to have talent, No. 2. You've got to want to go out there and play every day, and he's done it."

Cole is the 14th starter this century to allow 10 hits without a strikeout and win the game.

WHAT'S NEXT
Rockies: Right-hander Tyler Chatwood (5-3, 3.20 ERA) will meet the Pirates on Saturday at 2:05 p.m. MT at PNC Park -- meaning he will be in his element. Chatwood is 4-0 with a Majors-best 0.33 ERA in four road starts.

Pirates: Left-hander Jonathon Niese (4-2, 5.28 ERA) will take the mound for the Pirates at 4:05 p.m. ET on Saturday at PNC Park. Niese has put together two straight quality starts, but home runs remain an issue: He's served up 11, third-most in the Majors, in 46 innings.

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Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.

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.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.