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Rockies walk off on Fowler's sac fly

DENVER -- Dexter Fowler continued to pump up the Rockies on Monday night.

The Rockies led the Pirates all the way until a 58-minute rain delay in the ninth inning, only to see Pedro Alvarez tie the game with a three-run homer on the first pitch after play resumed.

But Fowler made the night end happily with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth to give the Rockies a 5-4 victory at Coors Field in front of 36,907.

"They hit a homer, and it is deflating, but we're going to win as a team and lose as a team," Fowler said. "We knew we had to put something together."

Wilin Rosario singled off Jason Grilli (1-3) to open the bottom of the ninth. Josh Rutledge bunted a third strike foul, but pinch-hitter Jason Giambi singled Rosario to third, and Fowler delivered the game-winning fly ball to center as the Rockies (35-54) handed the Pirates (49-40) their fourth loss in 11 games.

It was a winning finish to another standout night for Fowler, who went 1-for-4 and has 14 hits in his last eight games. Fowler also made the biggest play in what arguably was the best defensive game of the Rockies' season by leaping and reaching above the center-field wall to rob Rod Barajas of a home run.

The Rockies can only hope their season begins to mirror that of Fowler. He was hitting .219 and dealing with heavy criticism on May 14. Now he is batting .300.

At 5-5 in their last 10 games, the Rockies aren't exactly as hot as Fowler, but Monday revealed some of the reasons the Rockies believe there is light at the end of the the second-half tunnel.

Starter Jeff Francis, despite falling behind in counts and not feeling sharp, held the Pirates to one run and six hits in five innings. Reliever Josh Roenicke threw three scoreless innings with one hit and one walk to lower his ERA to 2.33. Third baseman Jordan Pacheco, still learning his position, made diving plays against Clint Barmes to open the third and Josh Harrison to open the sixth. Rutledge made a running, spinning play on an Andrew McCutchen grounder to shortstop after Pacheco robbed Harrison.

"Obviously, it's not coming at the time we want, but better late than never," Fowler said. "Guys are swinging the bat well and the pitching's starting to come together. We're going to be all right at the end."

But Alvarez, who has 18 home runs this season and five in 17 career games against Colorado, nearly washed away all those good feelings.

"To that ballclub's credit on the other side of the field, they're in the position that they're in this year because they're not going away until you record all 27 outs," said Rockies manager Jim Tracy, who once managed the Pirates.

The Rockies scored four runs in the fifth off Jeff Karstens, who gave up six hits and four runs in seven innings and drove in a run with a fifth-inning single.

Tyler Colvin led off the fifth with a walk, Rosario and Rutledge followed with singles, with the latter scoring Colvin. Eric Young Jr. followed with a two-run pinch-hit double. Young has five hits in his last six at-bats with three RBIs. Marco Scutaro added a run-scoring single.

The Rockies took a 4-1 lead into the ninth with Rafael Betancourt pitching, but McCutchen and Neil Walker (16-game hit streak) singled, with a Casey McGehee popup in between, before umpires finally delayed a game that had been played in lighter rain most of the way.

Rex Brothers (5-2) threw a fastball to the outside part of the plate, only to see Alvarez drive it the opposite way to left field.

"You throw 97, it's not easy to hit -- and he hit it," said Rosario, the Rockies' catcher.

The Rockies, however, came back against Grilli.

"Some days you're the hero, some days you're the goat," said Grilli, who once pitched for the Rockies. "I can't let this affect me; it's not going to affect me. A night like this stings pretty good, but I'll bounce back. I made some pitches and left them up, they did what should've with them. They put good swings on pitches that were hittable."

Francis, who joined the team in June and has functioned well under the team's pitching system of four starters under limited pitch counts, didn't end up with a win but it was another exemplary start. He threw 72 pitches and posted his sixth straight start in which he did not give up more than three runs.

Francis said this time his defense deserved most of the credit.

"As a pitcher, people always say, 'Use your defense, let them do their job,'" Francis said. "They did that and more tonight."

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