PITTSBURGH (AP) — Esmil Rogers allowed four singles while pitching into the eighth inning, Troy Tulowitzki homered and drove in three runs, and the Colorado Rockies beat Pittsburgh 7-1 on Thursday to wreck the Pirates’ home opener under new manager Clint Hurdle.
Rogers (1-0) won the Rockies’ No. 5 job with a strong finish in spring training. He looked more like their ace, mixing a devastating 95 mph fastball with a few breaking pitches to overwhelm the Pirates over 7 1-3 dominant innings. After giving up singles to the first two batters, the right-hander retired 22 of 23, including 18 straight.
Tulowitzki connected for his third homer in the fourth off Paul Maholm (0-1) to make it 3-1 as the Rockies won their fourth straight. The All-Star shortstop is batting .451 (46 of 102) with six homers and 18 RBIs in his career against Pittsburgh.
Andrew McCutchen drove in Pittsburgh’s only run.
Following a 4-2 trip to Chicago and St. Louis, the Pirates, who won only 17 road games last season, were welcomed home warmly by 39,219 fans. The second largest crowd in PNC Park history was eager to see if a team full of youngsters that lost 105 times in 2010 had grown up.
It’s still too early to say.
Hurdle’s first home game for Pittsburgh came against the Rockies, the team he took to the World Series in 2007 and skippered for eight-plus seasons before being fired two years ago. It was also a homecoming of sorts for Colorado manager Jim Tracy, a close of friend of Hurdle, who managed the Pirates in 2006-07.
Hurdle was certainly familiar with many of Colorado’s players, but never managed Rogers, who didn’t make his big-league debut until the end of the ’09 season.
Rogers overpowered the Pirates and silenced their fans.
In the hours leading up to the opening pitch, generations of Pittsburgh fans, many of them too young to remember when the beloved Buccos were a contender, geared up for a home schedule they can only hope is more enjoyable than so many before.
After 18 consecutive losing seasons, the Pirates are way overdue.
Older fans wearing Roberto Clemente’s sacred No. 21 mingled with youngsters sporting McCutchen’s No. 22 and the No. 18 of Neil Walker, the local kid who grew up rooting for the Pirates and believes he and his teammates can finally fill the void Pittsburghers feel between seasons of Steelers football.
“We’re most certainly moving in the right direction,” Walker said following batting practice. “You can just feel it around here.”
During pregame ceremonies, the Pirates paid tribute to part of their past by honoring late manager Chuck Tanner, who guided Pittsburgh to their most recent World Series title in 1979, when Sister Sledge’s disco hit “We Are A Family” became a championship anthem.
Walker’s throwing error in the first helped the Rockies take a 2-0 lead.
With one out and a runner at first, Walker cleanly fielded Carlos Gonzalez’s tailor-made double play ball but threw wildly to second, the ball skipping past shortstop Ronny Cedeno and into foul territory. By the time the Pirates corralled it, Dexter Fowler had scored and Gonzalez was at third. Tulowitzki’s sacrifice fly made it 2-0.
The Pirates got one back in the bottom of the inning on McCutchen’s RBI groundout, one of the few hard-hit balls off Rogers.
Notes: Colorado went 31-50 on the road last season. … Tanner, who died in February at 82, was remembered for being the Pirates’ fearless on-field leader. “If he was captain of the Titanic, he would have told the passengers they were stopping for ice,” said Greg Brown, one of the team’s broadcasters. The Pirates are wearing patches on their jerseys with Tanner’s No. 7. His son, Bruce, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to former catcher Manny Sanguillen. … The Pirates are 4-7 in openers at PNC and 72-53 overall. … Pittsburgh’s Jose Tabata has hit safely in all seven games. … The Pirates had played 26 straight error-free innings before Walker’s miscue in the first.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)