Bucs blast through series opener

Bucs blast through series opener

PITTSBURGH -- Ian Snell could do nothing but throw strikes while Valerio De Los Santos could do nothing but throw balls Monday night.

The Pirates' offense was recording outs while the Rockies offense was scoring runs.

Bottom line: Colorado was lucky and Pittsburgh wasn't.

Then, splash.

The Pirates broke free from their recent slide with big fifth and sixth innings -- highlighted by Nate McLouth's home run that reached the Allegheny River on a bounce -- lifting them over the Rockies, 8-4, at PNC Park.

"It was a little weird," Jack Wilson said.

The dice rolled in the Rockies' favor in the first when left fielder Matt Holliday's fly ball carried just over the center-field fence for a 2-0 lead. Colorado took a third run on Willy Taveras' RBI single in the second.

But things didn't feel normal.

Snell, despite giving up three runs early, was a strike machine. He was throwing his fastball with command and letting batters put the ball in play.

De Los Santos, on the other hand, was wild. He almost struck McLouth in the head three times in the bottom of the first inning on his way to recording six walks in the game.

"It was getting a little frustrating," manager John Russell said. "We knew he was a little wild, and we had opportunities and he found a way to get out of it. He was effectively wild early.

"Pitchers like that are occasionally tough to hit because he's missing so bad and then he throws a quality pitch. It's tough to stay focused."

Instead of trying to hit their way back into the game, as McLouth put it, the Pirates remained patient. They were rewarded when De Los Santos walked the first two batters in the fifth.

Rockies manager Clint Hurdle had enough at that point. He summoned Jason Grilli from the bullpen, but the right-hander fared just as poorly. Grilli walked Wilson and then gave up a two-run double to Ryan Doumit.

Jason Bay reached base on an error, Doug Mientkiewicz singled in Wilson and Steve Pearce collected his first RBI of the season with a sacrifice fly to cap off a four-run fifth.

McLouth then led off the sixth with a monster blast -- estimated at 448 ft. -- that cleared the right-field seats and bounced into the river. It was the 22nd time a home run has reached the Allegheny on a bounce. McLouth became the 10th Pirate to accomplish the feat, and he was also the last -- hitting into the water on Sept. 10, 2007.

"I got it where I was looking, and put a pretty good swing on it," McLouth said.

Mientkiewicz and Pearce followed with another RBI apiece to give the Pirates some insurance.

No one was happier by the run support than Snell, who has slowly showed signs of his old self since the All-Star break. The right-hander struck out eight and walked only one in seven innings. The start was arguably his best since a six-inning, 10-strikeout effort against Florida on April 6.

"My teammates helped me turn it around," said Snell. "They're sticking by me through this whole mess I'm going through. Teammates comfort me and tell me to keep going, keep battling."

"He started off a little rocky," Russell said, with no pun intended. "After that, I thought he settled in and threw the ball very well. His fastball command was very good tonight, which actually set up all his other pitches.

"I know that's what he's been looking for. That's what we we're looking for. Hopefully this is a turning point for him."

The Pirates also received two scoreless innings of relief from Denny Bautista, who struck out the side in the eighth.

"Great," Russell said. "It was impressive."

The Pirates' first-year skipper also received a big boost from his bench. Mientkiewicz and second baseman Chris Gomez combined to go 4-for-8 in place of injured starters Adam LaRoche and Freddy Sanchez.

"They've done it all year," Russell said. "The bench has been one of our strong suits for us. Those guys are veteran guys. They know how to play ... and they're going to give us a good effort. They never let not playing ever be an excuse."

The win was the Pirates' 25th come-from-behind victory of the year.

Todd Krise is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.