PITTSBURGH (AP) — Travis Snider is no longer a regular in the Pittsburgh Pirates lineup. The arrival of Gregory Polanco in June means right field is no longer an option for Snider – or anybody else – for the next six years.
Relegated to part-time status, Snider isn’t sulking. He’s thriving.
Snider’s major league-leading 11th pinch hit of the season, a sinking liner off Matt Belisle, in the eighth scored Neil Walker and sparked the Pirates to a 4-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Friday night.
“When you don’t see (reserves) on the bench, we’re not hanging out eating sunflower seeds, we’re actually doing something,” Snider said. “We really just try to feed off each other in that sense and have a routine you can stick with it.”
Coming through is becoming routine for Snider, who is 11 for 39 (.282) as a pinch hitter.
“One of the things we continue to talk about with all the pinch hitters is … there’s no downside,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “You’re trying to perform one of the toughest acts in the game and he’s gotten to a good place with it.”
All-Star reliever Tony Watson (6-1) picked up the win with a scoreless eighth inning. Mark Melancon got Troy Tulowitzki, representing the tying run, to ground out to third to end it for his 17th save.
Starling Marte tripled and drove in two runs before leaving late in the game shortly after taking a fastball to the head. Hurdle called the decision to remove Marte “precautionary” and he will be re-evaluated on Saturday.
Charlie Culberson and Corey Dickerson had two hits apiece for the Rockies but Colorado’s bullpen couldn’t give starter Jorge De La Rosa his fifth consecutive victory. The Rockies left 11 runners on base while losing their third straight.
“We couldn’t put it away,” manager Walt Weiss said. “We got a few big outs there but the final analysis is we weren’t able to put that game away.”
Walker singled to lead off the bottom of the eighth and moved to third on Gaby Sanchez’s single to center. Snider followed with a hard drive that Gonzalez couldn’t track down, the low point on a night the slugger also struck out five times.
Pittsburgh starter Francisco Liriano worked five innings as he tries to bounce back from a difficult first half in which he managed just one win in 15 starts and spent a month on the disabled list with a back injury. The left-hander returned in four shaky innings last weekend against Cincinnati, but Hurdle threw Liriano right back out there on Friday hoping to get him into a comfortable rhythm.
The early signs were encouraging. Liriano labored through the first two innings – needing 27 pitches to get out of bases-loaded jam in the first – but got better as the game wore on. Colorado managed only an RBI fielder’s choice by Dickerson in the second against him as he retired 11 of the last 12 batters he faced.
Liriano allowed one run on three hits, walking three and striking out eight.
“When I started hitting my spot with my fastball in, things started to get better,” Liriano said.
De La Rosa was just as effective while keeping the Pirates off balance for six innings. Poor decision making by Marte helped. The left fielder tripled to left with two outs in the fifth, scoring Polanco all the way from first. Marte then ran through third baseman Nick Leyva’s stop sign and was out by a good 15 feet trying for an inside the park homer.
Colorado went back in front in the seventh when Pedro Alvarez’s throwing error with two outs snowballed into an RBI single by Drew Stubbs. Pittsburgh evened it in the seventh after loading the bases off Rex Brothers. Adam Ottavino came in and got ahead of Marte 0-2 before hitting the outfielder in the helmet with a 93 mph fastball.
“It was a bad pitch, I wish it didn’t happen,” Ottavino said. “It got away from me.”
NOTES: Pittsburgh RHP Gerrit Cole threw 30 pitches on Thursday without incident as he recovers from a sore back. Cole was eligible to come off the disabled list on Friday but the team remains uncertain on when he will return. … Colorado RHP Tyler Chatwood will have undergo reconstructive elbow surgery for the second time in his career. Chatwood hasn’t pitched since going on the 60-day disabled list on April 30. The 24-year-old is 20-22 with a 4.34 ERA in 70 major league games. He is expected to miss 12-18 months. … The series continues on Saturday when Pittsburgh’s Charlie Morton (5-9, 3.32 ERA) faces Colorado’s Brett Anderson (0-3, 4.95).