PITTSBURGH -- Carlos Gonzalez shielded his eyes from the sun and stuck out his glove.
The way things have been going for the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first three weeks of the season, having the Colorado left fielder make a catch with his eyes closed wouldn't have been out of the question.For once, the ball hit the ground. And for once, the Pirates didn't let the good fortune go to waste.Nate McLouth's RBI double skipped just under Gonzalez's outstretched mitt, sparking a five-run rally to lead the Pirates over the Rockies 5-1 on Wednesday as the teams split a doubleheader.Colorado broke up James McDonald's no-hit bid in the seventh inning of the opener on its way to a 2-1 win. But baseball's worst offense tied a season-high for runs in a game after Gonzalez battled the sun and lost."We've had opportunities present themselves before, haven't been able to move on them," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "We had an opportunity in the second game and we moved on it dramatically."McLouth's hit led to an RBI single from Andrew McCutchen, a two-run homer from Garrett Jones and a solo shot from Pedro Alvarez, who homered in both games."I thought we played good baseball today," Alvarez said. "Tough game the first game and I thought we bounced back pretty well."Thanks in part to the late afternoon sun glaring at Gonzalez as McLouth's sinking liner came in his general direction."It was one of those things where you can't catch something you don't see, you know?" Gonzalez said. "I didn't see the ball at all."The Pirates will take it. They began the day with a major-league low 36 runs, mustered just one in the opener on Alvarez's homer before erupting off Jhoulys Chacin (0-2).Charlie Morton (1-1) benefited as Pittsburgh offense broke out of a season-long slump, at least for an inning."It's always nice to have a lead," Morton said.Something that's been a rarity for the Pirates this year. When Morton walked onto the mound to start the sixth with a five-run cushion, it was only the second time this season a Pittsburgh starter was on the hill up by at least two runs.Despite the outburst, Pittsburgh set a major league record by playing its 18th straight game starting the season in which neither team scored more than five runs, surpassing the standard set by the 1943 Detroit Tigers.Still, Pittsburgh has remained competitive thanks to a pitching staff second in the National League in ERA (2.72).The pitching staff has remained patient, insisting help is eventually on the way.It didn't come in the opener.McDonald ended up with a no-decision after the Rockies scratched across two runs -- on just three hits -- to win.The veteran right-hander flirted with the first Pirates no-hitter since Francisco Cordova and Ricardo Rincon combined over 10 innings against the Astros on July 12, 1997.McDonald was nearly flawless before Troy Tulowitzki's infield single with one on in the seventh. McDonald gave up one run and one hit in seven innings, striking out eight and walking three.Despite the buzz that built around PNC Park as the zeros piled up, McDonald didn't spend much time thinking about how close he'd come until he was removed before the start of the eighth inning."I was like, 'Man, two more innings is all I needed,'" McDonald said. "You're aware of it, but are you thinking about it pitch by pitch. I'd rather have the win or the no-hitter."Matt Reynolds (2-0) won in relief of starter Juan Nicasio. Rafael Betancourt worked the ninth for his sixth save.Chris Resop (0-2) lost after relieving McDonald in the eighth.Resop hit pinch-hitter Eric Young with a pitch, Marco Scutaro singled and Tyler Colvin followed with a sacrifice fly off reliever Tony Watson, and Young just beat Jose Tabata's throw to the plate."I don't know if I could name another guy in the league that's going to score from third base on the ball that Colvin hit," Tracy said. "There's probably a couple other guys who would try, but it's less than five I guarantee you as far as guys who would take off from third on that fly to get us the run we needed to win."Colorado ended a six-game road trip with a 3-3 record."Our bats need to come to life, and we all believe that we're going to get hot and put up numbers and score a lot of runs for the pitchers," Gonzalez said. "We just need to start winning more series.
As part of the new collective bargaining agreement, both teams were allowed to add a roster spot for the doubleheader. The Pirates recalled reliever Jared Hughes from Triple-A Indianapolis while the Rockies brought up reliever Zach Putnam. Hughes pitched a scoreless ninth for Pittsburgh in the first game then was sent to the minors in the evening. ... The Pirates are off Thursday then begin a six-game trip on Friday in Atlanta. A.J. Burnett (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will face Tommy Hanson (2-2, 3.38 ERA). ... The Rockies are also off on Thursday and start a three-game set against the Mets on Friday. Drew Pomeranz (0-1, 6.75 ERA) will start for Colorado. The Mets had not announced a starter.