Rockies host Pirates to begin second half

Colorado entered the 2007 All-Star break in fourth place in the NL West, but the Rockies ended up in the World Series.

The defending NL champs are 8 1/2 games behind in baseball's worst division. And they'll be trying to avoid a fifth straight loss when they open a four-game set with the visiting Pirates Thursday.

Pittsburgh owns the worst ERA in baseball -- 5.24 -- and will send its top starter to the mound in red-hot Paul Maholm.

The left-hander hasn't lost in nearly two months, and he's 1-0 with a 1.96 ERA in his last three starts.

Maholm is the only Pirates starter to last eight innings this season.

Ubaldo Jimenez will get the ball Thursday for Colorado.