By Michael Kelly, Associated Press
A rough first inning could have meant an early exit for Pittsburgh starter Trevor Williams. The rookie settled down, though, and rode his offense to his first win in more than a month.
Williams pitched 6 2/3 strong innings, and the surging Pirates beat the Colorado Rockies 13-5 on Friday night.
Pittsburgh has won a season-high six straight and 12 of 14 to move a game above .500 for the first time since starting the season 3-2.
“When we play our best baseball we can compete with any team out there,” said Andrew McCutchen, who had three hits and reached base five times. “Right now we’re doing it. Our starting pitchers have been phenomenal, and that’s the main reason we’re doing what we’re doing.”
Rookie Josh Bell had a career-high four hits and Jordy Mercer homered for the Pirates (49-48), who tied a season high with 18 hits to kick off a nine-game road trip. They are within two games of first-place Milwaukee in the NL Central.
“We’re playing really well right now and this road trip is big for us,” Williams said. “If we finish good with this road trip, things are looking up for us.”
Pittsburgh jumped on Colorado starter Jeff Hoffman (6-2) and chased him three batters into the fourth inning. Bell had an RBI single in the first and a three-run double in the second when the Pirates took the lead for good. Bell had a season-high four RBIs.
Hoffman struggled in his worst outing since allowing nine runs in 3 2/3 innings against Arizona exactly one month earlier. He walked four, hit a batter and left after Bell’s third hit of the game.
“It was my fastball command. I couldn’t locate it,” Hoffman said. “Especially when I needed it. When you can’t locate that one it is really hard to get out of any kind of jam.”
Nolan Arenado homered for the fourth time in two games and drove in two runs for Colorado, which had its four-game winning streak stopped.
Arenado’s 82 RBIs leads the majors.
Williams (4-4) allowed three runs in the first inning but after Tony Wolters’ leadoff double in the second he didn’t allow a hit until Arenado’s solo homer, his team-leading 22nd, in the sixth. Williams left after a two-out single by Wolters, who scored on a double.
“We got a big, big effort from our starting pitcher,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “For him to pitch into the seventh inning after giving up three in the first, with the pitch efficiency he had, it was impressive. That won’t go down as a quality start but that’s a quality start — and even more.”
Williams helped the cause with a walk and a run in the second and his second career hit in the fifth. The Pirates had 10 players get hits, including both pitchers. Reliever Jhan Marinez had a double in the eighth for his first career hit.
“You have a lot of advantages here in this ballpark as a hitter,” McCutchen said. “The altitude, the ball plays fast on the ground and it’s very big, a lot of room to run. You have all that going for you.”
McCutchen, who walked twice, had a chance to reach base for a sixth time but grounded out in the ninth. Bell followed with a triple to finish a homer shy of the cycle.
RHP Tyler Chatwood (right calf strain) threw 44 pitches in two simulated innings Friday and felt fine, manager Bud Black said. “No issues with the calf,” Black said. “We’ll chart the next course of action but as far as physically, he’s in a really positive spot, and we feel really good about that. And so does Tyler.”
Colorado pitchers combined to hit four batters Friday, which tied a franchise record. It was done three times previous, the last time coming April 24, 2005, against the Dodgers.