Botched pickoff spoils Butler's strong start

Rockies' right-hander holds Pirates to one earned run in defeat

Botched pickoff spoils Butler's strong start

PITTSBURGH -- Rockies right-hander Eddie Butler was pleased with the way he attacked the strike zone Friday night. It was one delivery that had nothing to do with the strike zone that left him with a 2-1 loss to the Pirates.

In a third straight good-enough-to-win effort, Butler held the Pirates to two runs (one earned) and seven hits in six innings. He struck out one and escaped several jams.

The difference between facing down Pirates ace Gerrit Cole, who gave up one run in seven innings, was a poor pickoff throw that allowed Starling Marte to move into scoring position for David Freese's broken-bat RBI single with two out in the sixth.

"I did a good job attacking the zone and had a pretty good plan," said Butler (2-2), who threw strikes on 55 of his 76 pitches and didn't yield a walk.

Butler began the year at Triple-A Albuquerque to improve his consistency with high-leverage, decisive pitches. He did it in a 2 1/3-inning relief appearance against the Pirates on April 27, and his four starts since have been mostly positive.

Friday was another step forward.

"He did a nice job, minimized damage, worked out of some jams, made some big pitches at key times," manager Walt Weiss said.

Beginning the first inning, Butler gave up a John Jaso single and an Andrew McCutchen double on mistake sliders, then settled in by relying on his fastball. After giving up two hits to open the third, he forced three fly balls.

Story's great diving play

The Pirates' Jordy Mercer tripled to open the fifth and didn't move from there. Shortstop Trevor Story's nice stop on Cole's grounder, followed by Butler forcing a Jaso groundout and a McCutchen pop foul, stranded Mercer at third.

"Eddie pitched through some adversity tonight, which was awesome to watch, because he had some traffic every other inning," catcher Dustin Garneau said. "He pounded the zone with his fastball tonight. He was awesome to catch."

Butler said his poor pickoff throw "lost the game right there." He nearly picked Marte off second moments later, but Story's tag was a split second late.

Even then, he couldn't quarrel with his pitch to Freese on the deciding single.

"I think all five fastballs I threw to him were about at that same level and he wasn't doing a whole lot with it, but he got enough of it to get it through," Butler said.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for 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.