Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle said after last night’s 3-2 loss that the Pirates “gotta keep plowin’” following their third straight loss to the San Diego Padres.
Thursday, the Pirates plowed the Padres in the form of a 10-1 victory.
“We were able to go out and play a complete ballgame,” Hurdle said. “More often than not those games start on the mound. And it did again today.”
Pedro Alvarez sounded the charge with his 34th home run of the season Thursday afternoon, and the Pirates followed suit with four more runs in the fourth inning to chase San Diego starter Ian Kennedy and break a 1-1 tie.
The Pirates held the lead through the end of the game to end their losing streak at three games, and establish a little momentum going into a series against the Cincinnati Reds.
San Diego took the game’s first lead off Pirates’ starter Gerrit Cole in the first inning. Chris Denorfia doubled to left with one out, and scored from third on a two-out single by Tommy Medica.
The 1-0 lead was the only one the Friars would hold. Pittsburgh tied the game immediately in the bottom half of the first after Jose Tabata was hit by a pitch from Kennedy and scored on a fielder’s choice hit into by Andrew McCutchen.
A 1-1 tie existed until the fourth when the Pirates blew the game open with a five-run inning.
In the meantime, Cole set a single-game career-high of 12 strikeouts in his six innings as he struck out two Padres in each frame he pitched. Cole (9-7) allowed just one run on four hits and three walks.
“The off-speed stuff has been really helping the fastball and vice-versa. I’ve been locating the fastball a lot better as of late and that’s been getting some guys anxious a little bit,” Cole said. “I’m not doing anything different, I’m just executing better.”
Cole’s strikeout tally was the most by a rookie Pirates starter in 30 years, falling one strikeout shy of when Jose DeLeon struck out 13 batters in a start on Aug. 20, 1983.
The bats, after scoring just four runs all series, added another four to the Pirates’ lead off the Padres’ bullpen. Anthony Bass was charged for four runs in his two innings when the Pirates scored three in the seventh and tacked another on in the eighth for good measure.
“It’s just nice to be able to give the team a chance to win, and we capitalized on it,” Cole said.
The capitalization came in the fourth, when Tony Sanchez followed Alvarez’s homer with a single to right. Jordy Mercer doubled, and Jose Tabata doubled each of them home. Neil Walker then hit his 11th home run of the season to put the Pirates up 6-1.
Sanchez’s single wasn’t the only highlight for the rookie catcher, as he caught a foul pop-up in the eighth inning that took him headfirst over the railing into San Diego’s dugout.
“You might not see a catcher make a better play in a dugout than the one you saw today,” Hurdle said.
When Sanchez flipped, he did so knowing only the concrete would catch him.
“It’s not like I’m a 100-pound woman, I’m a 230-pound catcher with gear and metal cleats and masks flying everywhere,” Sanchez said. “Who’s going to get in the way of that? I wouldn’t try to catch anybody.”
Out of the bullpen, Tony Watson, Jason Grilli, and Stolmy Pimentel combined to work three scoreless innings of one-hit baseball. For Grilli, his perfect eighth inning was the first clean inning he’d worked since his return from the disabled list.
While the win came over the Padres, a team eliminated from playoff contention, the game gives the Pirates what Hurdle calls a “feel-good” heading into a weekend series against the Cincinnati Reds.
“I do think there are times you can get back in sync with yourself,” Hurdle said. “Nothing is going to give guys more confidence than some success. So there is one thing to be said for continuing to work and keep plowing, and when you get a good mark, get some good results, some tangible evidence it doesn’t hurt anybody.”