Two Pirates line drives to the outfield found Oakland gloves, stranding four of the 10 runners the Pirates left on base in a 2-1 loss Monday night. The Bucs collected nine hits to the Athletics’ three, but went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position to drop their third-straight game.
“I can control being ready to hit, to swing the bat,” said Andrew McCutchen, who was 1-for-4 and was robbed of a potential go-ahead RBI in the 7th. “After that, nothing you can do.”
Colon Works Fast with Fastball
Oakland starting pitcher Bartolo Colon threw 92 fastballs over his 108 pitches, and tossed his heater for strikes 75% of the time to keep the Pirates from making much noise. The right-hander allowed seven hits and one walk over seven innings and limited Pittsburgh to only one run. Colon, age 40, was hitting 96 miles per hour in his later innings.
“He was built to pitch,” said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. “There are times he throws it in the teacup. He can stay in a spot.”
The A’s broke the stalemate in the 4th inning. Jed Lowrie doubled to right-center for his first of two hits and advanced to third base on Jeff Locke’s wild pitch. Josh Donaldson followed with a sacrifice fly. Oakland’s only other run came in the 7th when Locke walked Chris Young with two runners on and Derek Norris with the bases loaded.
“It’s going to stick out in my mind, walking Norris,” Locke said. “That’s something that I would do 10 times in a row. I’d still throw the same pitch again. I was a little off on that spot today.”
Two Chances, Two Denials
Pittsburgh’s best chance to attack Colon came in his 7th and final inning, trailing 2-0. Clint Barmes smacked a two-out double off the left-field wall and pinch-hitter Travis Snider followed with a single to left. After Starling Marte struck out on a check swing, Jose Tabata plopped a dribbler down the third-base line that Josh Donaldson could not handle and Barmes scored.
With two runners on, (All-Star) McCutchen ripped a hard line drive to left-center. Former stolen base champion Coco Crisp climbed aboard his trusty steed and ran down the screaming liner for the catch while falling to the grass. Crisp saved two runs and the game for Oakland.
“Right when I hit it, I knew he was gonna catch it,” McCutchen said. “It’s Coco Crisp. He’s fast. I told myself I’m catching that ball too if I’m out there.”
After Pittsburgh reliever Justin Wilson pitched his first of two perfect innings, the same batted-ball bad luck befell the Pirates in the 8th against reliever Ryan Cook. Pedro Alvarez and Garrett Jones reached on singles to left then advanced on Derek Norris’ passed ball. Clint Barmes stepped in with two outs and lined a pitch into left-center, but Yoenis Cespedes was able to take a few steps to his left to make the catch. Two hard-hit balls with two outs, collecting nothing.
“I’m gonna take every positive I can get,” said Barmes, who went 2-for-4 in a rare start despite the tough-luck lineout, adding he has learned to “take what the game gives me.”
Barmes, (All-Star) Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata all gathered two hits in the losing effort.
Speaking of tough luck, Locke took the loss in yet-another solid outing to snap his 16-game unbeaten streak. Hurdle said his starter did not have his best inside fastball command to one of the better right-handed lineups the lefty has faced this season. The newly-crowned All-Star said he wouldn’t change anything he did in a start that saw him limit the A’s to just three hits over seven innings.
Monday was a pitcher’s duel, and every duel has a winner and a loser.
“It was three quick outs, sit on the bench, get back out there again,” Locke said. “Colon did a fantastic job out there being quick, very efficient.”
The Pirates drop a half-game behind the St. Louis Cardinals for first place in the National League Central and baseball’s best record. If Chris Young were in center instead of Crisp, maybe the Pirates win. If Cook left his pitch to Barmes one inch the other way, maybe the Pirates win. If Locke’s pitch to Norris were an inch closer to the plate, maybe the Pirates win.
Baseball is, and continues to be, 162 games of “if.”