PITTSBURGH -- Clint Hurdle called pinch-hitting "one of the toughest acts in baseball" and also referenced it as a "no-lose" situation, because there is so much stacked against the player who picks up a bat cold off the bench.
On Friday, a Pirates' pinch-hitter ensured there would be no losing of their first game of the second half. Pinch-hitter Travis Snider's RBI double in the eighth inning was the difference as the Bucs overcame three errors and two unearned runs to down the Rockies, 4-2, Friday night at PNC Park.
With no outs and runners on the corners, Snider lined a 2-2 slider from right-hander Matt Belisle to right field. The ball snuck under the glove of Carlos Gonzalez and scored Neil Walker, who led off the frame with a single.
"Man on third, less than two, just anything to score a run," Snider said. "I was a little late on the fastball early in the count. I got a breaking ball over the plate and put a good swing on it."
The knock gave Snider his 12th pinch-hit this season, tying him for the most in the Majors. The outfielder credited his other benchmates and their in-game routine for success off the pine.
"We're not just hanging out eating sunflower seeds. Sometimes we go do something," Snider joked.
But a pinch-hitter still has to perform when his name is called.
"At the end of the day, that man has to get in the box and find a way to get something done," Hurdle said. "And [Snider] did tonight. With two strikes."
Before Snider put the Bucs ahead, they tied the game on a frightening moment in the seventh inning. Starling Marte took a 93-mph fastball from Adam Ottavino off the helmet with the bases loaded. Marte stayed on the ground for a few moments, was evaluated and stayed in the game until the ninth inning when Snider replaced him in left field.
Hurdle said they "dodged a bullet" in reference to Marte and said Snider was used defensively as a precaution.
Friday was by no means Pittsburgh's crispest defensive performance of the season.
The Pirates committed three errors on the night, two of which resulted in runs. But a late offensive surge and solid pitching -- including three hitless innings from starter Francisco Liriano after a dicey initial pair -- got the Pirates their 50th win, and kept them 3 1/2 games behind Milwaukee in the competitive National League Central.
Liriano gave up his lone run of the game in the second inning but wasn't hit hard in the frame -- the only ball to leave the infield was a bloop single by Charlie Culberson. Shortstop Jordy Mercer mishandled two grounders in the inning, the first resulting in an error, the second a blown chance at a double play. Third baseman Pedro Alvarez also was late to field a bunt by Colorado starter Jorge De La Rosa, who was credited with a single.
Alvarez did get charged with an error in the sixth inning, committing his Major League leading 20th throwing gaffe, which ended up turning into the Rockies' second run.
"You do the best you can do," Hurdle said of trying to get re-acclimated defensively after the All-Star break. "You work out [Thursday] night, you get after things, you get balls and prepare the best you can and play. We got that one behind us, and hopefully it will improve from here."
Before the mishaps on the field, it looked as if Liriano was going to allow a run or more across the plate on his own doing. Just four batters into the game, Liriano loaded the bases on an infield single and two walks. The lefty even threw three straight balls to Nolan Arenado, before getting him to ground into an inning-ending double play.
"I kept throwing the fastball in until I got it," Liriano said. "We got a double play, it was a great feeling right there."
In his second start since a month-long DL stint (strained left oblique), Liriano settled in after the first two innings and ended with eight strikeouts, three hits and three walks in five innings.
"I was trying to overthrow everything," Liriano said of his early troubles. "I started to come down a little bit, but sometimes you know what you're doing wrong and can't help it. But I settled down and executed pitches and let the guys behind me make plays."
Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.