By Pat Graham
September 24, 2015
Pittsburgh Pirates' Pedro Alvarez celebrates as he crosses home plate after hitting a three-run home run off Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Jairo Diaz in the eighth inning of a baseball game Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, in Denver. Pittsburgh won 5-4. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
DENVER (AP) -- These days, the Pittsburgh Pirates are spreading their clutch play around, and Pedro Alvarez was the latest to step into the spotlight.
Alvarez hit a go-ahead, three-run homer in the eighth inning, and the Pirates earned their 10,000th win since joining the National League, beating the Colorado Rockies 5-4 on Thursday.
''We don't have 90-plus wins for no reason,'' Andrew McCutchen said. ''It's not one person doing the job. Everyone is coming together, getting the job done. That's what creates a good team.''
The Pirates stayed four games behind first-place St. Louis in the NL Central. The Cardinals beat Milwaukee 7-3.
A day after clinching a playoff spot for the third straight season, the Pirates reached another momentous milestone. They're fifth all-time in NL wins behind San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles, according to STATS.
''Proud franchise,'' McCutchen said. ''A good milestone.''
Starling Marte joined some elite company Thursday, even if he had no idea whose company he was joining.
With a four-single afternoon, Marte finished 13 for 20 in the four-game sweep. It's the most hits in a four-game series for a Pirates player since Pie Traynor had 13 in 1928.
Marte didn't recognize the Hall of Fame name, but manager Clint Hurdle certainly did.
''That's a big-league name,'' Hurdle said. ''Thirteen hits in a four-game series? Very impressive.''
Reliever Joe Blanton (5-0) earned the win for a second straight game. Mark Melancon pitched a perfect ninth to pick up save No. 50. He becomes the seventh NL closer to reach that total in a season.
Not only that, but Melancon has now gone nine innings without allowing a hit - a reliever's no-hitter.
''That's probably as cool as anything,'' Melancon said. ''That's tough to do.''
Trailing 4-2 heading into the eighth, Marte and Neil Walker had one-out singles. After a strikeout, the stage was set for Alvarez, who lined a fastball from Jairo Diaz (0-1) over the fence in right field.
''I was hoping like heck it had enough to go out,'' Alvarez said.
The bigger question may have been this: Why didn't Rockies manager Walt Weiss summon in a southpaw to face the left-handed Alvarez?
''Jairo's been our guy in the eighth inning. He's been lights out,'' Weiss said. ''He's been better against lefties than righties.
''Alvarez got a big hit for them. That's what it came down to.''
Nolan Arenado had a two-run double in his return to the lineup. He sat out Wednesday after banging his head on the dirt when he dove for a ground ball Tuesday.
The Pirates rested third baseman Aramis Ramirez (groin) and outfielder Gregory Polanco (knee) with a big series in Chicago against the Cubs starting Friday.
Chad Bettis was in line for the win after allowing two runs over six innings, but the bullpen couldn't hold it.
Jeff Locke threw 5 2-3 innings and gave up four runs in his 30th start this season, which matches his career high.
''(Locke) never let the game get away from him,'' Hurdle said. ''We were able to do some nice work out of the bullpen and scratch out some offense and (get) a big swing of the bat from Pedro.''
Pittsburgh played in the American Association for several seasons before joining the NL in 1887. They won their first game on April 30, 1887.
Pirates: Polanco said his right ankle was fine even though it bent awkwardly as he went into second base Wednesday. His knee didn't fare quite as well.
Rockies: OF Brandon Barnes could be done for the season after straining his left hamstring Wednesday. ... OF Charlie Blackmon missed a second straight game with neck stiffness.
Pirates: RHP Gerrit Cole (17-8, 2.64) gets the start Friday when Pittsburgh plays in Chicago against the Cubs. Cole has a 3.10 ERA in eight career starts against Chicago.
Rockies: RHP David Hale (4-5, 6.32) takes the mound Friday as Colorado begins a three-game series against the Dodgers, who lead the NL West and can lock up the division title this weekend.