All you need to take away from the Pirates’ 4-2 loss to the New York Mets in their final game before the All-Star Break is up in that headline.
Pittsburgh starter Gerrit Cole allowed four hits and three runs in the 1st inning. Eric Young and David Wright knocked two fastballs for ground-ball singles, followed by Marlon Byrd mashing Cole’s slider for an RBI ground-rule double to left. Cole walked Josh Satin to load the bases. One batter later, the rookie pitcher couldn’t finish John Buck on a two-strike count and the Mets catcher lined a 99-mph fastball for a two-run single. Three of those four hits came after Cole got ahead on 1-2 counts.
“The bottom line is they came out more ready than I did in the first inning,” Cole said. “It’s inexcusable.”
Cole powered through the next four innings as he entered “survival mode,” allowing only three more Mets baserunners the rest of his start. The flame-throwing starter struck out five batters and once again gave up three runs or fewer, as he has in all seven outings. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle knows, though, that Cole needs to produce better opening acts.
“We’re not going to overthink this thing or overcook it: his command wasn’t what it needs to be to come in and set the tone of the game,” Hurdle said.
Nine Runners Stranded
Meanwhile, the Pirates offense failed to produce much against New York starter Dillon Gee. The Bucs were held hitless until Gerrit Cole reached on a dribbling infield single and moved to second base on Gee’s misfired throw. Starling Marte followed by knocking a ground-rule double to score Cole. Gee scattered three more hits the rest of the way until he was removed in the 7th inning holding a 4-1 lead.
Marte got a chance to tie the game as the first batter up after Gee allowed a double to Clint Barmes and walked Travis Snider before his exit. But reliever Scott Atchison froze the normally-free-swinging Marte with a slider to end the inning and strand the two runners.
Try again in the 8th versus 40-year-old LaTroy Hawkins. Jordy Mercer singled and Andrew McCutchen doubled to lead off the inning. Pedro Alvarez struck out looking at Hawkins’ 95-mph fastball. Jose Tabata hit a grounder to the right side for the second out, though Mercer scored. Potential go-ahead run Garrett Jones flew out to waste another opportunity.
Pirates reliever Vin Mazzaro pitched scoreless frames in the 8th and 9th to give the Bucs one more chance. Barmes and Russell Martin lined back-to-back one-out singles off closer Bobby Parnell. Marte could not convert his second chance to turn the game and flew out to center. Mercer then flew out to cinch the loss and send the Pirates to their four-day break having gone 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
Finishing off the Half
Pittsburgh enters the All-Star Break owning an impressive 56 wins and the National League’s second-best record, but the team knows there is work to do.
“We’re pleased. We’re not satisfied,” Hurdle said. “There’s not a man in there that’s satisfied… I’ve told 20 of them to go unplug, get away. Don’t put the baseball cap back on until they get on that plane to head to Cincinnati.”
The other five will head to the All-Star Game, the most Pirates representatives since 1972. When the Bucs “reboot” on Friday against the division rival Reds, they must be prepared for a gauntlet of 18 games in 17 days, including 12 against winning teams.