Pirates Use Seven-Run Inning, Cole’s Quality Start to Beat Brewers

Starling Marte
Starling Marte was just a few feet short of hitting for the cycle. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

The Pirates needed to come back from an early deficit to grab their seventh-straight win. Once they did, the Bucs tacked on another. Then another. Then another. Then one more. Now they have the best record in Major League Baseball.

The Bucs’ half of the 2nd inning had everything: six hits, seven runs, two five-pitch walks, previously stellar Milwaukee shortstop Jean Segura making mistake after mistake, Tom Gorzelanny! All the runs and hits came off Johnny Hellweg in his Major League; a total of 12 hitters came up to “move the chains,” as manager Clint Hurdle put it and ignite the Pirates to a 10-3 victory in front of a sold-out PNC Park.

“Some balls were left up,” Hurdle said. “A couple plays [defensively] that maybe weren’t handled as well as they’ve handled against us in the past also compounded things.”

Here’s the quickest way to a 2nd-inning exit in your first MLB start:

  • Garrett Jones lines a single to right.
  • Pedro Alvarez grounds a single up the middle.
  • Neil Walker doubles to the right-center gap (2 RBI).
  • Travis Snider walks on four pitches.
  • Jordy Mercer grounds out to second even though he beat the throw to first base.
  • Gerrit Cole walks on five pitches.
  • Starling Marte ropes an opposite-field single (RBI).
  • Russell Martin hits a ground ball Segura can’t handle (RBI + another run on the error).
  • Andrew McCutchen chops an infield single past Segura (RBI).
  • Garrett Jones lines out loudly to right field.
  • Pedro Alvarez grounds a single to left (RBI).

Good night, Johnny Hellweg. His ERA is now 27.00 after retiring the Bucs 1-2-3 in the 1st inning.

“Not to have excuses, but it’s a little tough to see in the 1st inning with that shadow and the sun out,” McCutchen said.

Cole Goes to 4-0

Gerrit Cole
Gerrit Cole threw 77 fastballs out of his 94 pitches. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

The offensive bonanza gave a four-run lead and breathing space to starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (6 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 HBP). Cole labored through a 27-pitch first inning, the longest of his short career, that saw the Brewers leap out to a 3-0 lead. On his first four hitters, he walked leadoff batter Nori Aoki on four pitches, gave up back-to-back singles and hit Aramis Ramirez for the first run. A Jonathan Lucroy double play slowed the bleeding, but then Juan Francisco and Rickie Weeks knocked two singles and Cole stranded two runners.

Cole generated three ground balls in the first, but two dribbled through for singles.

“A few of those ground balls went our way the 2nd inning. I was kind of able to get my rhythm back. It was a little weird out there in the 1st inning.”

After the shaky first act, the Pirates’ rookie starter was downright solid. He benefited in the second inning from a fabulous Andrew McCutchen running catch and catcher Russell Martin gunning down Aoki trying to steal second. After that, Cole cruised with the help of a “solid” defense.

“That’s so huge when you’re on the ropes and pitch count is getting up there to have those guys pick you up and make some quick outs. That changes the ballgame.”

If Gerrit Cole had retired either Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig or Andre Ethier in the 6th inning two weeks ago, he would have four quality starts in his first four Major League outings. He will have to settle for three quality starts and becoming the first Pirates pitcher since Nick Maddox in 1907 to win his first four starts.

He said he didn’t have his best fastball command, and one could say he did not have his sharpest offspeed stuff, but 14 of the 30 swings on Cole’s fastball were either whiffs or groundballs.

Oh, and he also threw one 100 miles per hour, or “90-10” as Hurdle is fond of calling it.

Laser Show at PNC

By the way, Marte and McCutchen were each a hit away from earning the cycle. Marte needed a home run but his fly ball was about 20 feet short. McCutchen needed a triple but never got a chance.

McCutchen did get the home run in the 8th inning on a full count, though, his 8th of the season to continue the celebration of up to 36,875 fans.

“It makes it fun just to have their support behind us,” McCutchen said.

Another by the way, Ryan Reid collected more strikeouts than Cole, pitching three scoreless innings for his first career save. Reid was all smiles afterward, happy with a job well done (not to mention a job) on his first chance after seven full seasons in the Minor Leagues.

“You work hard for this opportunity,” Reid said. ” To be a part of an opportunity with a winning ball club like this, I couldn’t have imagined.”

Reid couldn’t have imagined. Perhaps no one could have imagined the Pirates would roar out to a 49-30 record and sit nine games above the National League teams slap-fighting for a playoff spot while they hover around .500.

And here comes the offense.

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I don’t think Marte will be benched for anything that happened yesterday. Running to first base or second base has become a league wide problem, either by giving up on a batted ball or standing at the batters box admiring a fly ball that might go out.
I do think from looking at Marte in the dugout that he was fully aware of what he had done wrong and he did correct that problem the rest of the game, if the problem would have occurred in the ninth inning, he might get benched today.
Marte does need to work on his base running in general, he can’t keep looking at the fielders when he is running to first base, he needs to put his head down and go, I have noticed this with a lot of players, I can’t understand where the coaches are at, this is a coachable item.

Matt Beam

Just one other thought… anybody notice the trajectory that Trevour Bauer’s career continues to take after a horrendous start last night? Maybe there is something to guys actually spending time in the minors working on how things need to be done to be successful at the next level, not just the immediate results at their current level.

Matt Beam

James – wouldn’t it make sense to have AJ make one minor league rehab start in the middle of this upcoming week while Gomez pitches against the Phils to make sure his calf is right and recovers properly after pitching 5ish innings?

Personally, I think Wandy is out until after the all star break. Cole is currently only on schedule to throw 2 more times (Phils and OAK series) before the break and it seems Wandy could use 2-3 rehab starts in the meantime to really make sure he’s right because the Pirates have a critical stretch in the 2nd half of July after the break.

Bryan Graham

Yes I know Marte ended up with a good game and winning makes it easier to overlook things, but he needed benched after he lolly-gagged his way to first base in the first inning. That made 2 poor efforts in a row from him. He basically walked to first on the strikeout/passed ball incident in Seattle. Hurdle benched Cutch for not running out a ball in the past so why can Marte do it twice in a row? It’s a habit I hope he breaks himself of immediately.

joe g.

Gabby was seen in the dugout having a talk with him after he didn’t go full on that ground ball. Great to see that kind of leadership.

Bryan Graham

Yeah but he might have been talking to him about his favorite pizza or the girl in the 3rd row. I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough.

Lee Young

James…gotta send a message to the kid. If Presley was up, I bet Marte WOULD be out of the game!

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