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Pirates-Rockies Preview

The Associated Press

The Colorado Rockies are hitting like the team that looked like a potential contender early in the season, and the Pittsburgh Pirates are hitting like the team that started at a slow crawl.

A short-handed Colorado lineup will attempt to continue an offensive surge Sunday while seeking a fourth straight win and a three-game home sweep of the Pirates.

The Rockies (43-60), playing without Troy Tulowitzki and Justin Morneau besides the extended absence of Michael Cuddyer, have strung together a season-best five straight games with 10 or more hits after managing 14 in Saturday's 8-1 win. Carlos Gonzalez also missed the game due to an ankle injury, but shortstop fill-in Josh Rutledge and third baseman Nolan Arenado each turned in 3-for-5 efforts.

Rutledge has seven RBIs in this series, four straight multihit contests and a .448 average in seven games since replacing Tulowitzki on July 19. Arenado homered for the second time in four games and has six RBIs over his last five.

The Colorado bullpen matched a season-worst stretch of 11 games of giving up at least one earned run, but the starting pitching continued to impress with a second straight scoreless effort. Colorado's starters have a 2.29 ERA since the All-Star break.

"We've got a little bit of a roll going here," said starter Tyler Matzek, who allowed three hits in seven innings Saturday. "There's a good energy going on in the locker room and it starts with the starting pitchers."

The latest victory was their fifth straight home win over the Pirates (54-49), who have nine hits and two runs through two games of this series. The struggles come just a week after sweeping the Rockies in three games in Pittsburgh.

"They've pitched it better than us. They've hit it better than us. They've fielded it better than us the last two nights," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

Edinson Volquez will be entrusted with slowing the Rockies.

Volquez (8-7, 3.86 ERA) had a four-start winning streak snapped in Monday's 5-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The right-hander surrendered five runs and a season-high 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings.

He hopes to be back in a normal routine after going 10 days between his last two starts.

"Yeah, too many days between starts," Volquez told MLB's official website. "It made pitching against a team like that really tough. Everything was up. I couldn't execute my breaking ball."

He hasn't been able to execute much of anything when facing the Rockies in recent years, going 0-6 with a 12.00 ERA in his last seven starts against them.

Volquez won't miss Gonzalez if he has to sit out again, considering the outfielder is 10 for 19 with two triples and three doubles in their matchups. Wilin Rosario is 8 for 20 with two homers against Volquez while Rutledge and Arenado are a combined 8 for 17.

The Rockies have gotten some strong work out of Franklin Morales in three July starts since putting him back into the rotation. The left-hander is 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA in those outings after compiling a 6.13 ERA in 11 starts through the end of May.

Even so, Morales (5-5, 5.21) yielded four runs while matching a season high with nine hits allowed in Monday's 7-2 loss to Washington. The damage was confined to a four-run fourth inning.

"Other than that, he threw the ball well," manager Walt Weiss said.

Morales, whose only start against Pittsburgh came in 2007, has held the Pirates' current roster to 4 for 18. Russell Martin has three of those hits in eight at-bats with a home run.

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