The Pirates were only able to pull together one run and four hits against Colorado Rockies right-hander Esmil Rogers and dropped their home opener Thursday, 7-1, at PNC Park.
“He’s got a good, strong fastball,” Pirates second baseman Neil Walker said. “But what made him most effective was his off-speed, being able to locate the curveball and slider to both sides and a changeup today.”
After the Rockies scored two runs in the top of the first, Walker and Jose Tabata, at the top of the Pirates’ order, hit back-to-back singles.
Then, center fielder Andrew McCutchen bounced into a fielder’s choice that brought Tabata in to score from third.
From that point, Rogers retired 19 of the next 20 Pirates batters. It was Ronny Cedeno’s one-out single in bottom of the eighth that broke that streak. Steve Pearce, who pinch hit for reliever Chris Resop, followed with a base hit in the next at-bat, which caused the young righty to be pulled.
A duo of Rockies relievers in Matt Belise and flame-throwing righty Felipe Paulino then shut the door for Rogers, keeping the Pirates without a hit in 1 2/3 innings.
“His mix of pace was good,” Walker added. “He had good stuff. We battled, but we dug ourselves too much of a hole, I guess.”
Rogers (1-0) gave up four hits, surrendered only one walk, and struck-out seven batters in 7 1/3 innings of work.
PNC Park opened its tenth season on a picture-perfect day with 39,219 in attendance. But Rogers, who Rockies manager Jim Tracy considers to be “an improving young pitcher,” left the second-largest crowd in the venue’s history unsatisfied.
He outshined Pirates lefty Paul Maholm (0-1) who gave up five runs (three earned) over six-plus innings, including eight hits.
“I’m seeing that his road is similar to (Ubaldo) Jimenez and (Jhoulys) Chachin,” Tracy said. “It’s taken a season and a half to get him to this point and we want him to develop an even keel.”
Troy Tulowitzki’s solo home run over the left field wall on a full-count Maholm pitch in the fourth began the Rockies’ push to widen their lead. In his next at-bat, the shortstop doubled into left-center, bringing in a run in the sixth. He finished with the game with three RBI.
“He’s got my number but I think if I make my pitches, then it’s a different story,” Maholm said. “I missed three times and he hit the ball hard three times. He’s a good player, but you enjoy going up against him. You challenge him and see where you’re at.”
Outfielders Chris Gonzalez (two RBI) and Ryan Spilborghs also drove in runs for the Rockies.
Rogers earned a spot in the rotation whenever the team learned of a ring finger injury Aaron Cook during spring training, showing the team’s pitching depth. The Pirates will see a dominant lefty in Jorge De La Rosa in Friday night’s game, beginning at 7:05 p.m.
Malik Vincent covers the Pirates for the Pittsburgh Sports Report. He can be reached at email@example.com.