A Star Wars-themed evening at Coors Field almost turned into a bench-clearing brawl between Pittsburgh and the Rockies on Saturday night.
Fired-up Colorado rookie starter German Marquez was smack in the middle of the near-brouhaha, but he was able to keep his poise and pitch seven sterling innings as the Rockies whipped the Pirates 7-3. Colorado won for the fifth time in its last six games and halted Pittsburgh’s season-best, six-game winning streak.
The bad blood likely started Friday night in Pittsburgh’s 13-5 rout when the Rockies plunked the Pirates four times. Blood began to boil in the sixth Saturday night when Marquez hit Pirates star center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who was visibly upset.
Pirates starter Chad Kuhl counter-punched in the sixth, throwing inside on leadoff hitter Carlos Gonzalez. Gonzalez slowly walked toward the mound as the benches and bullpens cleared. Heated words were exchanged and fingers pointed. Marquez was particularly animated. Both benches were warned, but there were no ejections.
“Listen, this is a good team as far as having each other’s backs,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “They very much have each other’s back, and will always.”
Marquez came back in the seventh to set the Pirates down in order to finish his evening strong.
“I just came out ready to go, and they were coming out ready to attack my pitches, but I was just out there with confidence in my pitches and ready to execute,” Marquez said.
The Rockies needed a solid, lengthy start and Marquez delivered, giving up two runs on just three hits. With his curveball carving up the Pirates, he struck out nine and walked only two.
“My command was really good tonight,” Marquez said. “My second pitch was really there and I got a lot of strikeouts with it, so that was really good.”
Black added: “We are seeing steady growth from German, but the trick is to keep it going. He’s done a really nice job his last three starts. He’s feeling confident and showing a great deal of poise. What I am seeing more than anything is command of his breaking ball.”
Closer Greg Holland came on in the eighth with two on and two outs and got the dangerous Josh Bell to line out to a sprinting Charlie Blackmon, who chased the ball down in center. Though the Rockies plated two runs in the eighth on an RBI double by Alexi Amarista and a run-scoring single by DJ LeMahieu, Holland returned for the ninth. He got himself into a bases-loaded mess with two walks, gave up a run and threw 34 pitches, but he finished off the game by getting Josh Harrison to fly out to center. Holland recorded his 31st save in 32 tries.
Colorado’s offense was as timely as it was explosive.
The Rockies nicely strung together four hits in a three-run third. Marquez started it all with a one-out single to center, followed by Blackmon’s double to right. LeMahieu’s sacrifice fly scored Marquez, and Nolan Arenado sliced a double into the right-field corner to drive in Blackmon. Mark Reynolds scooted a single into right-center to score Arenado.
Bell’s leadoff homer off Marquez in the fourth cut Colorado’s lead to 3-2, but Gonzalez’s leadoff double, a wild pitch and Trevor Story‘s RBI single pushed the Rockies to a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the frame.
The Rockies added security in the seventh. Blackmon led off with his 13th triple of the season and scored on Ian Desmond’s single to right, giving Colorado a 5-2 advantage.
Terrific defense by the Pirates erased a potential Rockies run in the fifth. With Arenado on first after a single, Desmond launched a double over McCutchen’s head. But McCutchen played the carom perfectly, threw a strike to second baseman Harrison, who fired another strike to catcher Francisco Cervelli, who tagged out the sliding Arenado.
Things didn’t start out rosy for Marquez. He yielding a one-out walk to Harrison in the first, followed by McCutchen’s RBIs double.