Pirates send Rockies to seventh straight road loss

PITTSBURGH -- Ever since James McDonald made his major league debut by striking out two Pirates in a perfect inning nearly two years ago, Pittsburgh manager John Russell has longed to have him on his team.

Thursday night, McDonald showed why.

McDonald pitched six shutout innings in his Pittsburgh debut and the Pirates sent the Colorado Rockies to their seventh consecutive road loss, 5-1.

"Pretty good, wasn't it?" Russell said. "That's what I saw when he pitched against us. It was dominating. His fastball was very lively at a good angle, his changeup was really good. ... With the curveball, he kept them off-balance the whole game. It was very good to see, obviously. This is what I saw when he was with L.A., and I was very happy with got him."

Five days after being acquired from the Dodgers along with a minor leaguer for closer Octavio Dotel, McDonald had eight strikeouts -- as many as any Pirates starter had all season. McDonald struck out the side in the first and got six of the first seven Colorado batters on swinging strikeouts.

"I was just real excited today and ready to be on the mound and to get a chance to start every five days," said McDonald, who pitched primarily out of the bullpen the past two seasons with the Dodgers -- when he wasn't in Triple-A. "I was having fun today. When you get ahead, pitching can be fun."

Garrett Jones and Ronny Cedeno homered during a three-run second inning for Pittsburgh, which came in having lost six of its past seven.

Troy Tulowitzki had the lone RBI and three of the Rockies' seven hits -- all singles. Colorado had won five of its past six since snapping an eight-game losing streak.

The Rockies, playing their first of seven straight on the road, have scored only 14 runs in their past seven games away from Coors Field. They remained 5½ games behind the San Francisco Giants in the NL wild-card race.

"Once again, we got a ballgame on the road where we got one run and that's it," manager Jim Tracy said. "You're not going to win too many baseball games when you have one run -- it's that simple.

"We need to win a bunch of these," Russell said of the road games. "I'm not going to shy away from that fact."

The 25-year-old McDonald (1-1) allowed four hits and a walk in throwing 89 pitches in his second start of the season and sixth of his career. His fastball was in the 94-96 mph range during the first two innings, and he allowed only one runner to advance as far as second base all game.

Although McDonald also induced swinging strikes on his fastball and curveball, the majority of the strikeouts came on a changeup McDonald said was "real good today."

"He got great stuff," said Cedeno, recalling a scoreless three-inning, three-strikeout outing McDonald had against the Pirates last season. "He had a great changeup, and I'd see his curve -- it was nasty. He's got great stuff, and that's -- I'm so glad we traded for him. We need starting pitchers here like him."

The Pirates' starting pitchers combined to strike out eight during a just-completed three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds.

Jones snapped an 0-for-20 stretch by leading off the second with a high home run into the elevated seats in right off of Jeff Francis, his team-leading 15th and third in his past three games against the Rockies.

With Lastings Milledge aboard four batters later -- and immediately after a foul pop down the left-field line dropped in between three Colorado defenders -- Cedeno hit his sixth homer just inside the left field pole.

"My breaking ball I left up, and I left a couple changeups up, and that hurt me," Francis said. "They hit them. They did a good job hitting them and making me pay for some mistakes."

Francis (4-4) was charged with five earned runs on nine hits. He had five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

Game notes
Colorado first baseman Jason Giambi made his first start since July 26 and went 0-for-4. He had only four at-bats in the Rockies' just-completed eight-game homestand. First baseman Todd Helton was given the day off. ... Twelve of Cedeno's past 24 hits have been for extra bases. ... Tulowitzki is 13-for-35 (.371) since coming off the disabled list July 27. He is 18-38 (.474) in 10 career games at PNC Park.