DENVER (AP) -- A day of waiting and a short warmup took some of
the zing off Shawn Estes' pitches early.
He made up for it with location.Estes fought through some early stiffness to follow the worst
start of his career with six-plus strong innings, lifting the
Colorado Rockies over the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-5 Thursday in the
first game of a doubleheader."It took me an inning or two to get going, but I was hitting my
spots fortunately," Estes said. "I didn't have any giddyup on
anything, but I was hitting my spots and finally started feeling
good about the third or fourth inning."Estes (5-2) was scheduled to start Wednesday against the
Pirates, but that game was pushed back because of rain and snow.
More rain left the starting time Thursday in doubt, and Estes had
to scramble when he found out the game would go on as scheduled.Estes was tight and struggled with his control early -- a hit
batter and a walk led to a run in the second inning -- but kept
spotting his big-breaking curveball to keep the Pirates on their
heels.The rest of Estes' pitches came around after that and he allowed
two runs on three hits in 6 1-3 innings after giving up a
career-high nine earned runs in 2 2-3 innings Friday against the
Chicago Cubs. Five of his six strikeouts came looking at his
curveball, including Craig Wilson twice."He pitched well -- a lot better command of his breaking ball,"
Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's a pitch he needs to mix
in more and he did."Royce Clayton, Jeromy Burnitz and Luis Gonzalez homered for
Colorado, which won for just the third time in eight games.This marked the first traditional doubleheader in Rockies'
history at Coors Field -- Colorado has played 15 day-night twinbills
in which fans had to buy separate tickets for each game.The Pirates had a season-high 19 hits in a 15-10, 12-inning
victory over the Rockies on Tuesday night, but had trouble with
Estes' slow curveball to lose for the seventh time in eight games."We didn't play a good game," Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon
said. "We left pitches up in the zone and paid for them. We didn't
execute. It was a very disappointing loss."The Pirates at least made it interesting.Jose Castillo had a two-run double off Jeff Fassero in the
seventh inning, then pitcher Kris Benson knocked in another run
with a groundout to cut Colorado's lead to 5-4.Gonzalez put the Rockies back up two with a run-scoring single
in the bottom half, but Craig Wilson made it 6-5 with a run-scoring
single off Brian Fuentes in the eighth.The Rockies then added an insurance run in the eighth, and Shawn
Chacon pitched the ninth for his ninth save.Benson (3-3) drove in two runs, but continued to struggle since
opening the season 2-0. He allowed six runs on nine hits in 6 1-3
innings to lose for the third time in four starts.Benson has given up five or more runs in three of four outings
after allowing four total his first three starts."It's the obvious thing that if you get the ball up in the air
here they are going to carry out," Benson said. "They took
advantage of some balls up in the zone and they put them beyond the
fences."Colorado scored twice in the second inning on Burnitz's single
and a sacrifice by Mark Sweeney. Clayton made it 3-1 in the third
with a solo homer, his third of the season and 100th career.Burnitz led off the next inning with a homer, his ninth, and
Gonzalez made it 5-1 in the fifth with a solo shot to right.
1B Wilson made a sliding catch against the rail in front of
Colorado's dugout on a popup by Gonzalez in the third inning. ...
Pirates RF J.J. Davis came out after being hit on the right pinky
during a pickoff attempt in the second inning. X-rays were negative
and he's listed as day-to-day.