PITTSBURGH (AP) - It was just the fifth inning and Juan Nicasio had allowed only two runs but Colorado Rockies manager Walt Weiss knew it was time to take his starting pitcher out of the game.
Nicasio had thrown 103 pitches to get 13 outs. With the Rockies trailing by two runs, Weiss wanted a fresh arm to help prevent a big inning.
The move backfired on the rookie skipper as Russell Martin greeted reliever Manuel Corpas with a three-run homer and that was more than enough cushion for A.J. Burnett, who scattered eight hits to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 5-1 victory over the Rockies on Sunday.
``I thought Corpas gave us our best chance to get a double play there,' Weiss said. ``He puts the ball on the ground consistently with his sinker but hung a breaking ball over the middle of the plate and all of a sudden it's 5-0.'
The Rockies fell to 6-11 since the All-Star break as Nicasio (6-6) struggled for a second consecutive start, giving four runs and six hits in 4 1-3 innings with three walks and four strikeouts. He allowed a career-high eight runs in his previous start Tuesday at Atlanta.
Nicasio had gone 2-0 with a 0.47 ERA in his first three starts after being recalled July 12 from Triple-A Colorado Springs, where he had spent two weeks.
``I threw too many fastballs that were balls or they fouled off,' Nicasio said. ``I had a hard time putting the hitters away.'
Nicasio escaped a first-and-third jam with one out in the second inning without allowing a run and limited the damage to one run in the third after the Pirates put runners on the corners with none out. He felt he could escape one more time in the fifth after Andrew McCutchen walked and Pedro Alvarez single with one out.
``I wanted to finish the inning,' Nicasio said. ``I felt good.'
Weiss, though, didn't let Nicasio talk him into staying.
``He did a good job of battling but he had to really grind through a lot of his innings,' Weiss said. ``I didn't think he had much left in the tank.'
At 36, Burnett still has plenty left. Burnett (5-7) struck out nine and walked one in his first complete game of the season and 23rd of his career. He threw 110 pitches, including 83 strikes.
``I just felt good for all nine innings,' Burnett said. ``I knew my pitch count was low so I was confident I could finish.'
He impressed Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, who grounded into a double play to end the game.
``He gave me one pitch I could hit all day and that the first pitch I saw,' said Helton, who was 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout. ``He threw the ball wherever he wanted.'
The Pirates, who have the best record in the major leagues at 67-44 following 20 consecutive losing seasons, maintained their 1 1/2-game lead in the NL Central over St. Louis. Burnett hasn't gotten much backing this season, and owns a losing record despite a 2.73 ERA.
The Pirates took a 2-0 lead on an RBI single by Andrew McCutchen in the first inning and Garrett Jones' sacrifice fly in the third.
Jonathan Herrera had three hits for the Rockies, including a run-scoring single in the seventh inning that broke up Burnett's shutout bid. Michael Cuddyer added two this.
``That's a good offensive club,' Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. ``They can do some things and A.J. was able to work through the middle of the order pretty efficiently. Again, very aggressive, very focused. Ball's down. He took it to `em.'
NOTES: Martin had missed two of the previous three games with soreness in his left knee. ... Colorado LF Carlos Gonzalez returned to the lineup after not starting for four straight games because of a sprained right wrist and went 1 for 4. ... Rockies rookie 3B Nolan Arenado got his first day off since the All-Star break. ... Pittsburgh RHP Jason Grilli, who has 30 saves, hopes to begin playing catch this week. He has been on the disabled list since July 23 with a strained right forearm. ... Both teams are off Monday before opening three-game series Tuesday night. Colorado will play the Mets at New York with RHP Tyler Chatwood (7-4, 3.15) pitching against RHP Jenrry Mejia (1-1, 2.08). The Pirates will host the Miami Marlins with LHP Jeff Locke (9-3, 2.36) starting against RHP Henderson Alvarez (2-1, 2.61).
The Associated Press News Service
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