Bucs slug four homers to take series from Rox

Bucs slug four homers to take series from Rox

Bucs slug four homers to take series from Rox
DENVER -- Crazy game, this baseball. Sure, you've heard that before. But then again comes a game that should be officiated not by men in blue, but by men in white overcoats.

Throughout July, the Pirates have been carried by Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker, Major League Baseball's No. 1 and No. 2 hitters during the month, respectively. They had 50 hits in July. All the other Pirates had 86.

So, in Wednesday afternoon's 9-6 victory over the Rockies, the Bucs had 11 hits, four of them home runs. McCutchen's and Walker's share of that bonanza? An 0-for-8 showing.

"Yeah, how about that? The two guys who've been front and center are quiet, but everyone else steps up," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Just another example of what we're capable of doing as a team."

Walker's share of the collar snapped his hitting streak at 17 games, while McCutchen came up empty after having gone 18-for-34 (.529) in his previous eight games.

But, never mind -- with the reminder that their arsenal includes more weapons than just those two leading men, the Bucs wrapped up a 3-3 road trip on their way home for a six-game stand, beginning with Friday night's game against Miami at PNC Park.

Want more crazy? In the dawn of this season, Pittsburgh pitchers went begging for wins, their eye-popping efforts on the mound being squandered by a limp offense. So in his last five starts, James McDonald has an ERA of 5.22 -- and a record of 4-0.

McDonald was staggered by Coors Field, but he wouldn't take a dive, lasting five innings and allowing nine hits, four walks and six runs to reach double-figures in wins for the first time.

"It's exciting," McDonald said of becoming a first-time 10-game winner. "And weird. I got my first big league win right here, in the same style of game."

On April 25, 2009, pitching for the Dodgers , McDonald allowed five runs in five innings -- yet departed with a 6-5 lead. So he certainly was not discouraged to be trailing 5-1 two innings into Wednesday's game -- which he departed leading 8-6.

"I had to try to compete to stay in the game," McDonald said. "Not give up. You never know what can happen in this park. You can get runs quick. They were playing their tails off behind me, so I had to keep competing. "

Coors Field was that familiar hard-hat area. The guys in the batting helmets ruled. Pitchers drawing short straws had to take the mound. Humidor or not, this was a throwback humdinger.

Four Pirates took care of the dinger part. Pedro Alvarez, Garrett Jones, Casey McGehee and Rod Barajas all went yard, accounting for seven runs and increasing the team's season total of home runs to 101 -- 64 of them on the road.

"There are a lot of good hitters' parks in the National League," Jones said on his way out of the best of them. "When we get there, we try to take advantage of them and do some damage."

It was also the Pirates' fourth four-homer game of the season, compared to three in all of 2011.

"It's obviously nice to be able to jump back in the game and take the life out of the other team with one swing of the bat," McGehee said. "But the big thing today was not necessarily trying to drive the ball out of the park, but just make good contact and let the ball travel the way it can here."

The blows by McGehee and Barajas were particularly key: They came in the fifth, snapping a 6-6 tie in time to reward McDonald with his 10th win.

Afternoon games on the road are to Alvarez what spinach is to Popeye. He got the Bucs on the board in the second inning with his 19th home run -- 13 of which have come on the road, as well as under the sun (in only 90 at-bats).

For a guy who hadn't allowed more than three runs in 16 of 18 starts, this one began on a nightmarish note for McDonald. Or with the typical Coors Field welcome: McDonald trailed 3-0 before recording an out, on Dexter Fowler's leadoff homer and a two-run shot by Carlos Gonzalez.

In the second, instead of taking McDonald deep, the Rockies almost made him go off the deep end. While a ripped double by Josh Rutledge did set up the inning, the two runs giving the Rockies a 5-1 lead scored on a weakly-tapped groundout by Marco Scutaro and a dribbler 30 feet up the third-base line by Andrew Brown.

Quickly confirming the impression this was not a day for secure leads, Jones pulled his 13th homer with two men on off Jeremy Guthrie in the third, which mushroomed into a five-run inning on Clint Barmes' bases-loaded single for two runs.

Barmes' hit was the Pirates' only one to produce scoring without leaving the park, but was considered the day's biggest by McGehee.

"We had [Guthrie] on the ropes, and you've got to take advantage of that opportunity," McGehee said. "That hit was big."

For all of the loud offense, the stout Pittsburgh bullpen had another signature episode. Four relievers blanked Colorado across the final four innings, starting with Brad Lincoln and Jason Grilli and ending with Joel Hanrahan's perfect ninth for save No. 26.

The key moment, however, belonged to Tony Watson, the only one who had to pitch out of a jam. He took over for Grilli in the eighth with two on and one out to deal with Gonzalez and the rookie Brown, who was already 3-for-4. Watson got the dangerous Gonzalez to hit a weak dribbler to second -- on which the runners advanced into scoring position -- and, after watching him crank up for a 400-foot foul drive, fanned Brown.

"J-Mac battled to get through five. He showed a lot of guts out there," Watson said. "Then Lincoln, Grilli, Hanny -- everybody -- did their job to make it a good team win."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.