Starling Marte was just a few feet short of hitting for the cycle. (Photo Credit: David Hague)
The Pirates needed to come back from an early deficit to grab their seventh-straight win. Once they did, the Bucs tacked on another. Then another. Then another. Then one more. Now they have the best record in Major League Baseball.
The Bucs’ half of the 2nd inning had everything: six hits, seven runs, two five-pitch walks, previously stellar Milwaukee shortstop Jean Segura making mistake after mistake, Tom Gorzelanny! All the runs and hits came off Johnny Hellweg in his Major League; a total of 12 hitters came up to “move the chains,” as manager Clint Hurdle put it and ignite the Pirates to a 10-3 victory in front of a sold-out PNC Park.
“Some balls were left up,” Hurdle said. “A couple plays [defensively] that maybe weren’t handled as well as they’ve handled against us in the past also compounded things.”
Here’s the quickest way to a 2nd-inning exit in your first MLB start:
Garrett Jones lines a single to right.
Pedro Alvarez grounds a single up the middle.
Neil Walker doubles to the right-center gap (2 RBI).
Travis Snider walks on four pitches.
Jordy Mercer grounds out to second.
Gerrit Cole walks on five pitches.
Starling Marte ropes an opposite-field single (RBI).
Russell Martin hits a ground ball Segura can’t handle (RBI + another run on the error).
Andrew McCutchen chops an infield single past Segura (RBI).
Garrett Jones lines out loudly to right field.
Pedro Alvarez grounds a single to left (RBI).
Good night, Johnny Hellweg. His ERA is now 27.00 after retiring the Bucs 1-2-3 in the 1st inning.
“Not to have excuses, but it’s a little tough to see in the 1st inning with that shadow and the sun out,” McCutchen said.
Cole Goes to 4-0
Gerrit Cole threw 77 fastballs out of his 94 pitches. (Photo Credit: David Hague)
The offensive bonanza gave a four-run lead and breathing space to starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (6 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 HBP). Cole labored through a 27-pitch first inning, the longest of his short career, that saw the Brewers leap out to a 3-0 lead. On his first four hitters, he walked leadoff batter Nori Aoki on four pitches, gave up back-to-back singles and hit Aramis Ramirez for the first run. A Jonathan Lucroy double play slowed the bleeding, but then Juan Francisco and Rickie Weeks knocked two singles and Cole stranded two runners.
Cole generated three ground balls in the first, but two dribbled through for singles.
“A few of those ground balls went our way the 2nd inning. I was kind of able to get my rhythm back. It was a little weird out there in the 1st inning.”
After the shaky first act, the Pirates’ rookie starter was downright solid. He benefited in the second inning from a fabulous Andrew McCutchen running catch and catcher Russell Martin gunning down Aoki trying to steal second. After that, Cole cruised with the help of a “solid” defense.
“That’s so huge when you’re on the ropes and pitch count is getting up there to have those guys pick you up and make some quick outs. That changes the ballgame.”
If Gerrit Cole had retired either Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig or Andre Ethier in the 6th inning two weeks ago, he would have four quality starts in his first four Major League outings. He will have to settle for three quality starts and becoming the first Pirates pitcher since Nick Maddox in 1907 to win his first four starts.
He said he didn’t have his best fastball command, and one could say he did not have his sharpest offspeed stuff, but 14 of the 30 swings on Cole’s fastball were either whiffs or groundballs.
Oh, and he also threw one 100 miles per hour, or “90-10″ as Hurdle is fond of calling it.
Laser Show at PNC
By the way, Marte and McCutchen were each a hit away from earning the cycle. Marte needed a home run but his fly ball was about 20 feet short. McCutchen needed a triple but never got a chance.
McCutchen did get the home run in the 8th inning on a full count, though, his 8th of the season to continue the celebration of up to 36,875 fans.
“It makes it fun just to have their support behind us,” McCutchen said.
Another by the way, Ryan Reid collected more strikeouts than Cole, pitching three scoreless innings for his first career save. Reid was all smiles afterward, happy with a job well done (not to mention a job) on his first chance after seven full seasons in the Minor Leagues.
“You work hard for this opportunity,” Reid said. ” To be a part of an opportunity with a winning ball club like this, I couldn’t have imagined.”
Reid couldn’t have imagined. Perhaps no one could have imagined the Pirates would roar out to a 49-30 record and sit nine games above the National League teams slap-fighting for a playoff spot while they hover around .500.
And here comes the offense.