Aramis Ramirez(Photo: Justin K. Aller)
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- A resurgent J.A. Happ worked into the sixth inning, Aramis Ramirez hit a three-run homer and
the Pittsburgh Pirates held off the Colorado Rockies 4-3 on Saturday night.
Happ and Ramirez, both acquired near the trade deadline to give the Pirates needed depth, helped Pittsburgh improve to 14-3 in their last 17 games. Mark Melancon gave up a two-run homer to Nick Hundley in the ninth but hung on for his 43rd save.
Happ (7-7) won his third straight decision after giving up one run and five hits in 5 2-3 innings. Ramirez sent a breaking ball from Chris Rusin (4-7) into the seats in left field in the first inning for his 13th home run of the season and second since rejoining the Pirates on July 25.
Rusin lasted six innings but fell to 1-5 since June 21. Hundley and Ben Paulsen had two hits each for Colorado.
The Pirates remained within 3 1-2 games of first-place St. Louis in the hyper-competitive NL Central behind another strong performance from Happ. Brought in to bolster the back end of the rotation, the 32-year-old has settled down nicely following a bumpy debut against the New York Mets on Aug. 4.
The left-hander is 3-0 with a 0.78 ERA in his last four starts, working his way out of a tough spot in the third with minimal damage and getting a boost from reliever Arquimedes Caminero when the Rockies put two runners on with two outs in the sixth.
Caminero extended his scoreless streak to 17 1-3 innings after getting Hundley to ground out to third to end the threat in the sixth and breezing through the Rockies in the seventh.
Melancon survived a rare rough outing in the ninth. Paulsen led off with a single and Hundley followed with a towering homer to left. Brandon Barnes singled to put the tying run at first but pinch-hitter Daniel Descalso popped out and Charlie Blackmon lined into a double play to end it.
Pittsburgh raced to a quick lead when Josh Harrison and Andrew McCutchen singled with one out and Ramirez took a hanging curveball and put it well into the bleachers in left, his first home run at PNC Park as a member of the Pirates since July 20, 2003.
Rusin, tagged for a career-high 11 runs in two innings of a loss to the Mets last Saturday, allowed just one runner past second over his final five innings but received little help as the Rockies fell to 2-6 in their last eight games.
The Pirates made it a point to avoid a splashy move and instead add productive veterans at the deadline, the moves have paid off handsomely so far. Pittsburgh is 19-7 in August and allowed manager Clint Hurdle to showcase his team's versatility while adding an insurance run in the seventh off reliever Jason Gurka.
Starling Marte, initially given the night off, entered as a pinch-runner in the seventh. He moved to third on a pinch-hit single by Michael Morse - another deadline arrival - and scored on a fielder's choice by Gregory Polanco that gave the bullpen more than enough wiggle room.
Colorado: 1B Justin Morneau went 1 for 2 for Double-A New Britain on Friday night, his first action since going on the DL on May 13 with a neck injury. The 2014 NL batting champion played four innings at first base, with Rockies manager Walt Weiss calling the performance promising. ... RHP Kyle Kendrick will start one of Tuesday's doubleheader games against Arizona. Kendrick has been on the DL since getting hurt against St. Louis on July 31.
The series concludes Sunday when Colorado's Jorge De La Rosa faces Pittsburgh's Charlie Morton. De La Rosa is 5-4 on the road with a 3.51 ERA this season. Morton is 5-1 at PNC Park and is 2-1 with a 3.62 ERA in six starts against the Rockies.
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