The Colorado Rockies left a small village on base which was made all the more maddening for purple-clad fans by the fact that with so much traffic, the Rockies got only one run on a solo home run from Nolan Arenado.
Eddie Butler pitched remarkably well, darting his fastball with precision to every quadrant of the strike zone. The Pirates have an excellent lineup and were able to scratch seven hits against Butler but were fortunate to get both of the runs they scored.
This was especially the case with the go-ahead run in the sixth after Arenado had briefly tied it. Starling Marte would not have been in scoring position for a two-out, two-strike RBI single by David Freese if not for an error on Butler's part, trying to pick Marte off of first. Mark Reynolds seemed to react late and that was all the time Marte needed to move up and it ended up making all the difference.
Not only that, it appeared as though Butler picked Marte off at second later in the inning, but replays were inconclusive and he was ultimately ruled safe. An inch one way or the other on two pickoff plays, and the Pirates neer score their second, and winning, run.
It was Butler's second Quality Start of the season, the first coming on May 8th in San Francisco. He threw 55 of his 76 pitches for strikes and did not walk a batter, striking out one. He likely would have continued but needed to be lifted in favor of Ryan Raburn in an attempt to give the offense a boost. That didn't work, but it was the right move with one out and a runner on first.
Butler's Game Score of 53 actually just edged out Gerrit Cole's 52, because Cole allowed 10 hits and did not strike any one out. He got lucky early on two linedrive double plays.
Having left so many guys out there, the Rockies took a shot in the seventh, sending Dustin Garneau to the plate against Marte's golden arm and he was thrown out at the plate.
Arenado, Reynolds, and Charlie Blackmon all had three-hit days but the inability to get the timely hit or play the successful version of smallball the Rockies had been playing made it all for naught. Arenado's 14th home run of the year was all they would get.
It was a heartbreaker for the Boys from Blake, no doubt. They outhit the Pirates 12-8, they got another great start from a blossoming young pitcher, and they played outstanding defense all evening, but the ball just did not bounce their way on Friday night.
There was a turning point in nearly every inning of this game. Had a few line drives found gaps instead of gloves (for either team, really) the score could have easily been much higher. Both clubs played well in a tight game but the Pirates were just a little bit better.
Credit should always be given where it is due, and the Pirates executed just well wnough in high-leverage situations on both sides of the ball.
These are the kinds of games that are likely going to keep the Rockies out of the playoffs this season. The next step for them will be figuring out how to win games against great teams when they aren't catching any breaks. The lack of big-game experience for this team is going to make these kinds of games tough to win, but the experience gained could prove invaluable in 2017.
Game 2 in Pittsburgh starts at 2:05 MST on Saturday. The Rockies will look to break a streak of nine straight losses against the Pirates. Tyler Chatwood takes the rock against Jonathan Niese.