Pirates Beat Dodgers 6-3 on Alvarez’s Homer, Cole’s Deja Vu

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Gerrit Cole

Gerrit Cole struck out just one hitter but was an out away from his second quality start. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Yes, that was Gerrit Cole making his second Major League start Sunday, even though you could have easily confused it for a replay of his debut. The phenom prospect threw the same number of fastballs, allowed the same number of hits and walks, kept the run total low, faced a former Cy Young Award winner, pitched to contact and exited in the middle of an inning to a standing ovation on his way to a win in the 6-3 Pirates victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

One of the only differences was the catcher receiving his pitches. Michael McKenry found out 80 minutes before the game he would replace Russell Martin, a late scratch with lower body soreness.

“I didn’t have quite nearly the stuff I had on Tuesday,” Cole said. “Michael was able to recognize that and call the game accordingly.”

Cole relied on his fastball, which hovered around 94-96 mph early but ramped up to 96-99 mph in his final inning, throwing it 81% of the time and 65% for strikes. He only got four whiffs, three of them with his fastball. Both Cole and McKenry said he didn’t have his breaking ball, using it just eight times over 80 pitches.

“I wish I had a better breaking ball. I wish I had a better changeup, maybe generate a few more of those swings-and-misses,” Cole said.

But for all the areas that were lacking, Cole pitched to contact very effectively. He got into five three-ball counts of his 23 hitters but walked none. He threw first-pitch strikes less than half the time, but pitched back to draw nine ground balls. He struggled with the Dodgers’ strong middle of Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig and Andre Ethier (6-for-9) but kept the rest in check (1-f0r-14). Gonzalez in particular hit three fly balls to the left-field warning track.

Plus Cole got threw the fifth inning having thrown just 59 pitches, getting 11 of his first 15 outs on four pitches or fewer. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Cole was better in his first start but still got good results Sunday.

“When you miss spots and you leave the ball over the plate, and it’s the middle of the lineup guys, things happen,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “They get paid money. They got nice cars and nice homes.”

Just as in his debut, Cole got knocked around near the end. After two outs through the air to start the 6th, Cole threw what he said was his best pitch to Adrian Gonzalez. But the left-hander drove it to the Notch for a book rule double. Puig lined a fastball for a single to left and Ethier chopped a changeup that cut through the right side for an RBI. The sellout crowd of 37,263 applauded Cole (5.2 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 strikeout to pitcher Zack Greinke) as he exited with another job well done.

“The third time through the lineup is always gonna be tough,” Cole said. “There’s a fine line between throwing a good punch and showing them everything you got versus holding something back and getting yourself into trouble early.”

Manufacturing the Runs

The Pirates struck first on Greinke with back-to-back singles, though leadoff man Alex Presley was thrown out at the plate. Garrett Jones lined a cutter to the right-center-field gap for a two-run double. The Dodgers got one back in the 2nd inning. Yasiel Puig hit a leadoff single stopped only by Jordy Mercer in the grass, then stole second base, took third base on a groundout and scored on another groundout to Mercer.

Presley led off the third with a bloop single, then two batters later Greinke walked Jones on five pitches and hit Walker on one. The table was set for Pedro Alvarez with the bases loaded, but the dinner went cold as he grounded out to first base. Travis Snider’s 4th-inning leadoff single did not result in any runs after the Dodgers generated a run on three singles in the top of the inning. Instead, it was all tied at 2-2.

Pedro Alvarez's 15 home runs are tied for fifth in the NL. (Photo by: David Hague)

Pedro Alvarez’s 15 home runs are tied for fifth in the NL. (Photo by: David Hague)

Alvarez swung for redemption in the 5th. With two outs, Jones singled and Walker walked on five pitches, then Alvarez drew a full count on Greinke. The right-hander hung a curveball down the middle and Alvarez rifled it into the center-field bushes more than 400 feet away for a three-run home run. Greinke crouched on the mound, defeated with one swing.

On Father’s Day, Pedro Alvarez, Sr. was in the crowd to watch his son crush his team-high 15th homer.

“It means the world to me… I guess I must really love them,” Alvarez, Jr. said with a laugh.

Jordy Mercer and Garrett Jones each gathered two hits while Alex Presley tied a season-high three hits, including a line-drive solo home run on a cutter left down the middle by Matt Guerrier.

The Pirates bullpen held the Dodgers hitless over the final 11 batters. Justin Wilson relieved Cole and froze Luis Cruz with a 98 mph fastball after a four-pitch walk to load the bases, then followed it up by walking Jerry Hairston Jr. on four pitches in the 7th but drawing an inning-ending double play. Mark Melancon retired L.A. 1-2-3 for the 8th with the exclamation point of striking out Puig swinging to end a 10-pitch battle. Closer Jason Grilli did his job by grabbing two strikeouts for his league-leading 25th save and the series win.

“We got sellout crowds coming to PNC Park,” Grilli said to cheers in an interview with ROOT Sports’ Robby Incmikoski. “You guys gotta keep it up, coming out. Feeling good because of you guys.”

Notes!

  • Starling Marte played for the first time since Wednesday, entering in a double-switch to play left field in the 6th inning. Marte struck out and grounded out, but he will apparently avoid a trip to the disabled list (ribs/oblique discomfort)
  • Brandon Cumpton will be the starting pitcher Thursday for the Pirates in Cincinnati, Hurdle confirmed.
  • Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said about the media fervor over the possibility of being fired last month: “It was pretty rough.”
  • Reliever Mark Melancon pitched his third day in a row Sunday. Though he tossed only 17 pitches, expect him to take a rest Monday against the Reds.
  • Sunday’s game was delayed 1 hour and 28 minutes by rain.
  • Right-handed pitcher Jeanmar Gomez will pitch another rehab start Tuesday in Triple-A Indianapolis: 5 innings and 75 starts. He may have been a candidate to pitch Thursday, but Hurdle said they wanted to give him another chance to stretch out in the minors as opposed to hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.
James Santelli

Author: James Santelli

James covers the Pirates beat for Pirates Prospects. He is a Broadcast Journalism student at USC and has written for such outlets as NBCOlympics.com, Pittsburgh Magazine and the official websites of the Los Angeles Clippers and Pittsburgh Penguins. James previously covered the Pirates for Pittsburgh Sports Report. He also broadcasts play-by-play for the USC Trojans baseball team and was awarded the 2013 Chick Hearn Memorial Scholarship and Allan Malamud Scholarship. James dispenses puns at his Twitter account (@JamesSantelli) where he promises to write in first-person. Google

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  • http://atung.net/ Steve Zielinski

    Cole needs to get his off-speed stuff working. Eventually, he’ll need them.

    • buster09

      SteveZ : I usually really appreciate your comments and thoughts,but with this one I could say : thank you Mr. Obvious.

  • skliesen

    One of the biggest issues I have with this team is fundamentals. For anyone who watches this team, it’s plainly obvious they swing at too many balls and take too many strikes. I can forgive this to a degree as a youthful team still learning plate discipline. However, consistently hustling and not
    applying basic base running fundamentals are unforgivable.

    For example, in the loss on Saturday, the Pirates best player screwed the pooch on two separate occasions costing the Pirates runs and a potential victory.

    In the 1st inning, bases are loaded with one out, Cutch on 2nd, when Martin hits a tailor-made DP grounder. Cutch anticipates the DP and jogs towards 3rd base. As we all know, Ramirez throws ball away and Presley scores from 3rd. But if Cutch had busted his ass as soon as the ball was put in play he would’ve been around 3rd and with his speed could’ve scored on the play, too. And in the 6th, he once again was on 2nd base, this time with no outs. Martin hits a bomb to LF that is caught at the wall. However, Cutch doesn’t tag and move up on the play. Why? Did he assume it would be a HR? Clearly with his speed, he could’ve moved up to 3rd and set up a 1st and 3rd with 1 out situation.

    In the words of Coach Herb Brooks of 1980 US Olympic Hockey team fame, “Gentlemen, if you think you can win on talent alone, you don’t have enough talent to win on talent alone.”

    For the Pirates to realize their goals they must play smart, fundamental baseball every play, every day! No excuses for not hustling or not applying baseball logic. Especially if you are the best player on the team! Lead by example Cutch!

    • smurph

      I totally agree. While I like Hurdle as a manager, he seems to be unconcerned about the lack of fundamentals on this team. If they get to the playoffs, the small things become much more important – holdings baserunners on so they don’t get easy SBs, not getting thrown out at third by 25 feet on a base-hit (Garrett Jones), not getting thrown out at third on a grounder to SS.

    • leadoff

      I think Cutch has a touch of show in him and I think it affects his performance. I agree that he is not a very good baserunner over all. But I don’t think because he is the best player on the team that he necessarily would be the smartest player on the team, I am not sure he is even the best player on the team. Don’t forget he leads the world in leaving runners stranded at 2nd or 3rd, he has a tendency to loaf on throws after he catches balls in the outfield and has been taken advantage of a couple of times because of this. Smarts is something he does not always use!