Sitting eight games below .500, the Pittsburgh Pirates' playoff hopes were essentially dashed long ago, and they admitted as much this weekend, trading two key players.
At 11 games below the break-even mark, the Colorado Rockies think they're right in the thick of things.Colorado will try to rebound from only its second loss in 11 games Tuesday when it continues its three-game series with the last-place Pirates at PNC Park.The Rockies (48-59) were 18 games below .500 at the All-Star break, but opened the second half by winning nine of their first 10 games to pull within six games of first place in the NL West.Four of those wins came against the Pirates (49-57), who, playing in the much more competitive NL Central, are 13 games in back of the first-place Chicago Cubs. Pittsburgh traded outfielder Xavier Nady -- its leading hitter -- and setup man Damaso Marte to the New York Yankees on Saturday for four prospects, essentially raising the white flag on its season.Colorado, however, seems in prime position for a second-half run -- after all, it did the same last season, winning 14 of its final 15 to secure the NL wild card.Yet the Rockies' lone trip to Pittsburgh didn't start well. They blew an early 3-0 lead Monday, giving up seven runs in the fifth and sixth en route to an 8-4 loss."It's just a bad night off the mound," manager Clint Hurdle told the Rockies' official Web site. "You're going to have those. We've played 11 games and lost two. Tonight just wasn't a good night."The four runs were the fewest Colorado had scored since before the All-Star break. The Rockies came into Pittsburgh averaging 7.6 runs in their first 10 games of the second half.Matt Holliday has led the way offensively, going 17-for-44 (.386) with four homers and 11 RBIs since the break. Three of those homers have come against the Pirates.The Rockies should find it easier to get their offense rolling against Yoslan Herrera (1-1, 9.75 ERA). Herrera gave up seven runs and eight hits over 1 1-3 innings at Coors Field on July 19 in a 7-1 Colorado rout.That was just Herrera's second major league start, but he settled in comfortably in his third, shutting out San Diego on six hits over six innings on Thursday in a 9-1 win."He had command of his pitches," manager John Russell said. "It was a clean start for him. He had the first-start jitters, and his second start wasn't even relevant. Tonight, he looked relaxed."Pittsburgh's starters have a 7.07 ERA since the All-Star break.The Rockies' pitching staff, meanwhile, had been outstanding during the team's five-game winning streak before heading to Pittsburgh. Colorado gave up just seven runs in those five games.Glendon Rusch (4-3, 5.74) will take the hill on Tuesday looking for his fourth win in a row. The veteran left-hander hasn't dazzled in his last three starts, but he's been effective. He gave up two runs over 5 2-3 innings to the Pirates on July 18 in a 5-2 win, then allowed three runs over five innings in a 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday."He's establishing some momentum off the mound and in the rotation for himself," Hurdle said after Rusch's start against Pittsburgh.The Pirates are 12-17 when facing a left-handed starter after beating Colorado's Valerio de los Santos on Monday.