PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Pirates are ready to make the
National League Central race a little murkier.
Josh Fogg won his first home game of the season, and Matt Stairs
drove in two runs as the Pirates beat the Colorado Rockies 5-3
Friday night.The Pirates, starting a nine-game homestand, have won eight of
12 and are seven games out of first place in the NL Central despite
being 10 games below .500."We just have to keep playing the baseball we're playing,"
said reliever Mike Williams, who pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 21st
save. "We're still making mistakes, but we're making improvements.
We still have a shot. We're not 15 games back by any means."The Pirates scored three unearned runs in the fifth inning
before the second-largest home crowd of the season (37,566). After
starting the year 8-21 at PNC Park, the Pirates have won six of
their past eight home games.Fogg (4-3) allowed nine hits and two runs in 5 2-3 innings to
win for the first time in four starts at home this season he was
0-2. He last won at PNC Park on Sept. 7 vs. Florida."Foggie lived on the edge all night and kept me on the edge, as
well," Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. "We thought if he
could give us six innings, our bullpen would match up well."The sellout crowd was the Pirates' third in a row after they
failed to sell out their first 34 home games. They drew 36,856 for
Saturday's interleague matchup against Cleveland and 37,803 on
Sunday. Only twice before have the Pirates sold out three straight
at PNC Park, which opened for the 2001 season."It's great when the fans are out there supporting you," Fogg
said. "It's a tremendous feeling."The Pirates' recent surge can be largely attributed to an
improved bullpen and better hitting. They are one of only three
teams in the NL that has raised its average each of the first three
months of the season."They have a lineup that can jump up and bite you," Rockies
manager Clint Hurdle said.Nobody has been batter than Stairs, who has 12 hits in his last
28 at-bats. Normally a right fielder, he made his third start at
first base and gave the Pirates a 2-1 lead in the fourth when he
pulled Jason Jennings' 3-1 pitch over the wall in right-center for
his fifth homer of the season.Stairs is 17-for-42 (.405) since returning from the DL (torn
ligament in his right hand) and a brief rehabilitation stint at
Triple-A Nashville."He went down and got consistent at-bats," McClendon said.
"It got him in a groove."The Pirates increased their lead to 5-1 in the fifth when
Jennings (7-6) issued a full-count, bases-loaded walk to Aramis
Ramirez as the crowd roared. Stairs then beat out a high chopper to
second, driving in another run. Reggie Sanders followed with an RBI
single up the middle, but center fielder Preston Wilson threw out
Ramirez at home to end the inning. All three runs were unearned,
thanks to an error by first baseman Todd Helton on Kenny Lofton's
hard-hit ball.Jennings, who was looking to tie a team record with a win in
five straight starts, allowed five runs -- two earned -- six hits and
five walks in five innings."He was inconsistent," Hurdle said.Rockies catcher Charles Johnson homered with two outs in the
second to put Colorado up 1-0. The Pirates tied it in the bottom of
the third when Jason Kendall singled to center and Wilson appeared
to throw out Jeff Reboulet trying to score, but Johnson dropped the
ball during his sweep tag. Umpire Derryl Cousins first called
Reboulet out, then changed his call when he saw the ball sitting on
the ground. That prompted an argument from Hurdle."Charles took it out of his glove to show (Cousins) the ball,"
Hurdle said.Trailing 5-2, the Rockies rallied in the seventh, putting
runners on first and third with two outs. With right-handed hitting
Jay Payton at the plate, Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon replaced
Scott Sauerbeck with right-hander Brian Boehringer. Payton singled
to right to make it 5-3, but Mark Bellhorn popped out to end the
The Pirates' string of sellouts likely will end tonight, as
a crowd of 25-30,000 is expected. ... The Rockies road record
dropped to 12-27. They are 291-13 at Coors Field. ... Colorado
reliever Matt Miller made his major league debut and pitched a
scoreless sixth inning. ... Colorado optioned right-hander Scott
Elarton to Triple-A Colorado Springs, and recalled OF Ben Petrick.
Petrick was batting .273 with 11 HRs and 37 RBI in 71 games. ...
Pirates 1B Randall Simon, placed on the 15-day DL last Saturday
with a torn ligament in his right hand, said he expects to take
batting practice within three days and plans to rejoin the lineup
in the second week of July.