Let’s cut to the chase — the Pirates played a great game in front of a mostly-full PNC Park and thumped the defending World Series champions and a two-time Cy Young Award winner.
This game had a little bit of everything but the majority of the focus, and rightfully so, was on Gerrit Cole who only made his major league debut, cruised through a large chunk of the middle innings, had a two-RBI single and became an instant folk hero in Pittsburgh in the process.
“I actually think after he ran the bases it probably got his adrenaline to a very competitive and good place,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Cole’s third-inning hit. “I think he was amped up, he was ready to go and that was when I was going to really try to peak my focus to see how he was able to respond after that.”
That’s where his dominance of the middle innings began. Cole’s run started in the third inning with three consecutive outs and ended in the seventh when Andres Torres singled to start the inning. In between he did not allow any San Francisco hitters to reach base and in the meantime the Pittsburgh offense gave the rookie a cushion to work with.
“Our pitching staff has been pretty good this year and I think that’s a tip of the cap to how we’ve loaded up and the talent we have,” Pirates second baseman Neil Walker said. “For Gerrit to come up and do as well as he did is impressive. It was a little bit of a boost but if there is one area that we feel really confident in right now it’s the pitching.”
Andrew McCutchen scored in the fifth inning when Giants right fielder Hunter Pence misplayed a ball hit by Garret Jones — who would later score on a Pedro Alvarez single. Starling Marte hit a line-drive home run just inside the foul pole in left field in the sixth to extend the Pirates lead to 5-0. The Giants answered in the seventh with two runs of their own, but Pittsburgh was back at it in its half of the inning.
McCutchen started things off with a single followed by a Jones walk and a Russell Martin single that brought the Pirates center fielder around to score (and ended with Jones being thrown out at third base). Alvarez then crushed a ball deep to right-center field for a two -run home run that set the eventual final score at 8-2.
Most of the talk will be about Cole’s debut but what Alvarez did against the Giants should not go without mentioning. He finished the game 3-for-3 with three RBIs, two runs scored and was hit by a pitch in the third inning. Alvarez, despite hitting just .219 this season, leads the club with 14 home runs and 37 RBIs in addition to playing very well on defense.
Though the outcome appeared to be decided there were some fireworks between the two teams late in the game.
Marco Scutaro, the Giants leading hitting so far this season, was hit on the hand by a Tony Watson pitch and appeared to be in a lot of pain as he was removed from the game. Bochy said the initial X-ray on Scutaro was negative but that he could not unbend the pinky finger on his left hand and would be evaluated by a specialist on Wednesday.
“I think that they thought that we did it on purpose, which, to me is just ridiculous,” Pirates catcher Russell Martin said. “The result, obviously, the guy got hurt. You never want that to happen, but in my opinion, when a guy hits a changeup down the right-field line, it might need to speed that guy a little bit. So we threw a fastball in, and Watty’s been known to pull fastballs every once in a while. We hit him in a wrong spot, he kind of half-swung at it and almost jammed himself.”
San Francisco relief pitcher Geroge Kontos responded by not only throwing behind Marte in the eight, but eventually hitting McCutchen. For his trouble Kontos, along with Giants manager Bruce Bochy were each ejected by home plate umpire Wally Bell.
“You get a warned then you end up hitting a guy,” Bochy said. “There’s no surprise there. That’s part of the game. You have no argument.”
The Pirates did not retaliate after McCutchen was hit and Martin said, in so many words, that Pittsburgh retaliation was on the scoreboard.
“When you hit somebody in the hand, you’re not doing at on purpose,” he said. “They threw at Cutch on purpose, so they got their — what do you call it — their retaliation or whatnot. I didn’t know if it was the most professional way to go about it. I think they just weren’t happy because we were beating them up a bit. The only thing we can do is just beat ‘em up again tomorrow.”
Whether there are any remaining hurt feelings for Wednesday’s game remains to be seen. Giants starter Barry Zito is known for his curveball while Pirates starter Francisco Liriano can touch the mid-90s with his fastball. One would have to think the advantage would go to the Pirates if there’s a bean ball war at PNC Park for the second game of this three-game series. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.