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Sanchez ignites Pirates' 8th-inning rally in win over Rockies

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Freddy Sanchez's rapid ascent from role player
to clutch star has been so impressive he will have a bobblehead
doll.

Sanchez's RBI double in the eighth inning gave Pittsburgh the
lead and the Pirates went on to a 3-1 victory over Colorado on
Monday night, the Rockies' eighth straight loss.

"We've talked about this guy a lot, and I said weeks ago that I
have run out of words to describe how good of an offensive player
this guy is," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. "He's just
fantastic."

Sanchez, the league's leading hitter, raised his average from
.360 to .363 with two hits -- the second of which was a double into
the right field corner off Byung-Hyun Kim (5-6) that came after
Jack Wilson doubled to left with one out in the eighth.

Sanchez and Wilson both had two hits for the Pirates, who have
won three of four since the All-Star break.

"I was just looking for a good pitch to hit out over the
plate," said Sanchez, who began the season as a backup to Joe
Randa at third but made the All-Star team. "That's what you play
for, to hit in situations like that to give your team a chance to
win."

During the game, the Pirates announced that Sept. 30 will be
Freddy Sanchez All-Star Bobblehead Night.

Sanchez downplayed that meant he has arrived, saying he hopes
the team -- which had the major league's worst record at the
All-Star break -- will arrive instead.

"Hopefully there's no more, 'Well, we're still learning from
this," Sanchez said. "It's time to execute and get the job
done."

The Pirates added another run in the eighth inning when Sanchez
scored on a bases loaded walk to Jose Bautista. Rookie Matt Capps
worked the ninth for his first career save.

"It feels pretty good," said Capps, who leads all rookies with
50 appearances. "It was fun, a good experience."

The go-ahead runs were scored a half-inning after the Rockies
appeared to be on the verge of breaking a 1-1 tie that had endured
since the third.

Garrett Atkins hit a double to the gap in right-center -- his
third hit of the game -- off John Grabow (2-1) with Todd Helton on
first. But center fielder Batista made a strong relay throw to
second baseman Jose Castillo, who quickly got the ball home to
Ronny Paulino, who blocked enough of the plate to barely tag out
Helton in time.

"I don't know if there's another player in the game who can
make a throw from that distance and that is that accurate," Tracy
said of Castillo. "That play was executed to perfection. It took a
perfect throw from the outfielder and a perfect throw from the
cutoff man."

Helton was the only the second runner on either team to get as
far as third base after the third inning, as Kim and Pittsburgh
starter Kip Wells combined for six 1-2-3 innings.

Nate McLouth scored the game's first run when he doubled to lead
off the bottom of the first, advanced to third on Wilson's
groundout and scored on a passed ball by J.D. Closser.

"To be a good team you have to work out of these types of
situations," Closser said. "Right now we're in one of those. But
you never know, it could happen any day. We're out there battling
and playing hard, so things are going to turn around for us."

Clint Barmes tied it with one out in the third with a homer into
the left field corner, his sixth. It was Barmes' third home run in
his last six games after going 98 at-bats without one.

Wells, who missed almost three months at the start of the season
after surgery in March to repair a blocked artery in his right arm,
had allowed 23 earned runs in 16 2-3 innings in four starts this
season -- all losses.

He enjoyed easily his best start of the season, allowing one run
and seven hits in seven innings, walking two and striking out four.

"That's the Kip Wells we need to see," Sanchez said. "It was
a great outing tonight."

Kim worked a career-high 7 1-3 innings and tied a career high
with nine strikeouts, a feat he had accomplished twice before.

"He's been on a roll all season," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle
said. "He continued to do the things he can do and we've asked him
to try to focus on doing. That's very encouraging. Our starting
rotation the last few weeks has been impressive -- look at the
lines. We just have to find a way to start tightening things up,
capitalizing on them on offense and in the bullpen."

Game notes
The Pirates had managed at least 10 hits in each of their
previous eight home games. ... Pittsburgh is 16-7 all-time against
Colorado at PNC Park -- the best winning percentage (.696) against
any team that has played there more than six times. ... Sanchez has
hit safely in 26 of his last 29 starts. ... Kim had pitched seven
innings in a game 11 times in his career.