DENVER (AP) — In the midst of a dominating outing, German Marquez had one wayward pitch that fueled a near brawl.
Marquez matched a career best with nine strikeouts in seven solid innings and also became the latest Rockies pitcher to hit a Pirates batter with a pitch as Colorado beat Pittsburgh 7-3 on Saturday night.
Marquez (8-4) plunked Andrew McCutchen in the sixth inning, and the Pirates outfielder strode toward the mound before being headed off by home plate umpire Chad Fairchild and slowly taking his base. Going into the game, the Pirates had a major league-high 55 batters hit by pitches, including four by Rockies pitchers on Friday night.
"It never was on purpose," Marquez said through a translator. "All I want to do is play baseball."
Said Rockies manager Bud Black: "No way he hit Andrew McCutchen (on purpose). That ball got away."
In apparent retaliation, Chad Kuhl threw an inside pitch leading off the bottom of the sixth that narrowly missed Carlos Gonzalez, who had to back away from the plate sharply to avoid it. He dropped his bat and walked toward the mound, exchanging words with Kuhl as Fairchild and catcher Francisco Cervelli blocked his path. Players and coaches from both teams streamed onto the field and though there were some heated exchanges, no punches were thrown.
"You know, we got hit five times in two games and we try to push somebody off the plate and they took exception to it," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
McCutchen shrugged off the tension and the back-and-forth between the teams as part of the game.
"I don't think it's a matter of being hit by one pitch too many," he said. "It's baseball. People are going to get hit by pitches. It's going to happen."
Calm ultimately prevailed after warnings were issued to both teams and play resumed without further incident.
Mark Reynolds added a pair of run-scoring singles and Charlie Blackmon scored after doubling in the third and tripling in the eighth.
The Pirates had their six-game winning streak halted despite Josh Bell's home run leading off the fourth.
Marquez gave up an RBI double to McCutchen in the first but kept the Pirates largely in check the rest of the way. He set down three straight batters in the fourth after yielding Bell's homer to start the inning, and recorded strikeouts in six of his seven innings.
Black said Marquez's slider and curveball were particularly effective strikeout pitches.
"The fastball has velocity and when he hits his spots, he's going to go through stretches where he gets quick outs," Black said. "But you saw some of their swings on breaking balls. They didn't see it. They did not see the breaking ball."
Marquez also singled for the Rockies' first hit of the game in the third and scored.
Greg Holland got four outs for his major league-leading 31st save in 32 chances. The Pirates loaded the bases in the ninth with one out but Holland struck out pinch-hitter Jose Osuna and got Josh Harrison to fly out to center around an infield RBI single by Starling Marte.
Kuhl (3-7) allowed four runs on nine hits in six innings. He started strong but the Rockies got to him for a three-run third that put Colorado in front to stay.
Pirates: OF Gregory Polanco has been placed on the 10-day disabled list after straining his left hamstring running out a grounder in Friday's win over the Rockies. LHP Steve Brault was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis to fill the roster vacancy. Brault is expected to work out of the bullpen.
Rockies: RHP Chad Bettis, who's battling back from testicular cancer, is slated to make his third rehab start and first at the Triple-A level for Albuquerque on Sunday. He's slated to throw 60-65 pitches.
Pirates: RHP Ivan Nova (10-6, 3.27 ERA) has gone 0-2 with an 8.40 ERA in three previous career starts against the Rockies, all while he was with the New York Yankees.
Rockies: LHP Kyle Freeland (9-7, 3.67 ERA), who carried a no-hitter into the ninth in his last start, faces Pittsburgh for the second time this season. A rookie, Freeland took the loss in Pittsburgh's 7-1 home victory earlier this season.