PITTSBURGH — For the first time in about two months, Gerrit Cole looked like Gerrit Cole.

The Pirates’ ace allowed one run in six innings of work in the Pirates’ 4-0 shutout loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday, and while the loss to the fourth-place Phillies stings, getting Cole back on track is by far a bigger factor for the Pirates’ success in the second half.

In his return from the disabled list in Washington last weekend, Cole checked all the boxes. He threw all his pitches, the velocity was there, the command wasn’t outrageously bad, but the overall results just weren’t good enough. He gave up five runs in four innings in one of his worst starts of the season.

Friday night at PNC Park, it was a different Cole. His breaking pitches in particular had a sharpness that he didn’t possess in his previous start, and he was able to utilize both the sinker and the curveball to strike out seven Phillies and keep the rest off-balance for much of his outing.

“I thought it was more of a reflection of how the delivery was tonight,” Cole said of his success with the breaking pitches. “It was a good step in the right direction. I thought there was a lot of pitches tonight that were thrown really well that they couldn’t pick up. It’s good to see stuff like that. Hopefully, we can build on it.”

The only hiccup for Cole came in the sixth inning, when he gave up an infield single to Odubel Herrera, hit Andres Blanco and walked Tommy Joseph to load the bases with no outs. He gave up one run on Cameron Rupp single to right, but was able to stop the bleeding with back-to-back strikeouts and a fly ball to end the inning.

“We just stayed aggressive [and] read swings,” Cole said. “I thought a couple of the guys were a little anxious up there and we were able to move the curveball at the bottom of the zone and underneath the zone. [We] kept them honest with some fastballs in some situations. We executed when we needed to.”

The 28-pitch inning prevented Cole from having a longer outing. His 96 total pitches were the most he’s thrown since returning to action from right triceps tightness.

“The sixth inning was unfortunate,” he said. “I was just not efficient with the first couple of hitters and got into a jam that unfortunately, I couldn’t totally get out of. I minimized, which was great. Rupp hit the ball to [Gregory] Polanco, that’s a good pitch, nice swing.”

In Washington, Cole said that he wasn’t happy with the way he pitched out of the stretch, possibly because he hadn’t allowed many baserunners in his two rehab starts and thus hand’t gotten to work on it much. Against the Phillies. he had runners on base in each of the first three innings, and he felt much more comfortable out of the stretch.

“I thought we made some adjustments and cleaned it up,” he said. “I thought the leg timing was better. I though the timing with the hands was connected, so that allows you to stay with a relatively efficient leg [kick]. Obviously, you mix in your holds and your picks and whatnot. It didn’t seem like we were sacrificing too much on either side — holding the runners or the quality of the pitches. It was good to see that bounce back a little bit. There’s still some room for improvement.”

MOVE DOWN WORKS

Not much about the Pirates’ offense went well, as Phillies starter Zach Eflin pitched a three-hit shutout, but the one (and probably only) bright spot was the performance of John Jaso.

Jaso has been the Pirates’ left-handed leadoff man for much of the season, but with Jaso in a 1-for-13 slump to start the second half, manager Clint Hurdle decided to move him around in the lineup, first hitting him sixth against Milwaukee on Thursday and then fifth against Philadelphia. Jaso went 1 for 3 with a double Thursday and was 2 for 3 with a double Friday.

“I don’t know, I’m just glad he is.” Hurdle said when asked what has been different about Jaso since the change in scenery. “You try different things. He led off an inning with a first-pitch double. Sometimes you just move things around, see if that can jump-start it.”

“There was a lineup change and there was some other stuff that I was working on personally,” Jaso said. “You can never put your finger on one thing in this game. I felt good tonight, so I just want to keep it going.”

DEFLATING DEFENSE

Despite getting three-hit by Eflin, the Pirates had plenty of contact, as they were strikeout victims just six times. But even though they made plenty of contact — both in the air and on the ground — the Phillies defense was up to the task. Especially deflating were a few balls that looked like extra-base hits off the bat, but were run down by Peter Bourjos and Herrera in the outfield.

“That’s deflating in the moment, but we’re all professionals here,” Jaso said. “We have a lot of games under our belts. You just keep moving forward. You forget about that by the time your next at-bat comes around.”

Hurdle credited Eflin for keeping the Pirates off-balance with his breaking pitches while keeping his fastball down to keep the fly balls in the park and induce 11 grounders.

“[Eflin] spun both breaking balls very well,” Hurdle said. “His changeup played for him, he maintained fastball velocity with sink throughout the outing. He kept the ball out of the middle, he changed locations, he changed velocity, kept it down. It was a mix of everything.”

When the Pirates did get a pitch to hit, they weren’t able to capitalize.

“We had balls to hit, and we didn’t hit them that well,” Hurdle said.

GLASNOW IS A GO

For whatever reason, the Pirates have been unwilling to reveal the identity of Saturday’s starting pitcher, even after the Indianapolis Indians changed their probable starter from Tyler Glasnow to Chad Kuhl.

Hurdle finally confirmed that Glasnow will indeed start Saturday. The 22-year-old lefty has a 1.94 ERA is 18 starts in Triple-A. In his major-league debut earlier this season, he gave up four runs in 5.1 innings against the Cardinals in St. Louis.

The Phillies will counter with Aaron Nola, who has a 8.10 ERA and a 1.97 WHIP in his last seven starts, while averaging less than five innings per appearance.

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29 COMMENTS

  1. Simply put, this is barely a team of playoff caliber. They are going nowhere of note this season.
    Their rotation doesn’t support it, their offense is sporadic and underachieves and the bullpen is overworked to the point of unreliability.
    Cole is overrated as a #1 starter and has yet to show me the maturity needed to win big games deep into a playoff scenario.
    Liriano is frighteningly good or horribly bad.
    The rest of the group, sans Taillon, are made up of #5/6 placeholders that shouldn’t be in the discussion beyond this year.
    This is the time for Huntington to open the gate and let in any GM who can make a bona fide offer for anyone other than a select few with more than two years of service time. If the returns don’t meet expectations then pull back and try again during the off season.
    We are at an inflection point with talent and it’s better to trade a year early than a year late.
    We’ve built an enviable farm system with some truly upside pitching talent for once.
    Let’s use it .

  2. One could take issue with labeling Cole’s start as great, but I’m not, the Phils offense has shown signs of competence the last month or so and Cole held them to one run.

    The larger issue is the offensive ineptitude, the Pirates have been the 3rd worst hitting team over the last 30 days. Eflin has one plus pitch and is a marginal organizational top 20 prospect, that was an noncompetitive performance by the Pirates.

    Too many regulars struggling, it might be time to get Frazier, Joyce, and Rodriguez more at bats. I’m not one for indignant denunciations of players, but top five, ten hitters don’t suffer collapses like McCutchen’s without injury, McCutchen having the 10th most at bats in the NL lessens that possibility.

  3. Cutch’s WAR is .7 this year. I looked at every one of his advanced stats. Fly ball % is highest in his career, infield popup % is about 50% higher than anytime in his career, ISO is pathetically low, his contact % on pitches in the zone is the lowest in his career, and his plate discipline stats are the worst in his career. Every single thing I see is pointing to one conclusion. His bat is slowing down. Players don’t stuggle with timing for an entire season. He has lost bat speed. That is the kiss of death

  4. The only one to blame for this loss is Hurdle. Pure and simple. Again, my opinion only. You don’t trot that ridiculous completely out-of-order lineup and expect to get anything done. Mercer leading off against a righty…..Jaso hitting fifth? Cervelli whom can’t really hit yet 6th, Kang 7th and Harrison 8th…..did he throw darts at a dart board for everyone not named Polanco, Cutch, Marte? If you try to defend this lineup I am not going to respond so please don’t bother.

    • Now, and at least for the next few games, the Pirates need Joyce (RF) and Freese (1B) in the lineup. Frazier (2B) provides a spark at leadoff and Harrison slides over to 3B. Marte to CF, Polanco to LF and Jaso and Cutch to the bench.

  5. The pirate hitters were not that focused because they thought it was a spring training game. I mean how can a pitcher be in a real major league game with only 68 aaa innings .

    • Because many teams don’t keep guys in the minors as long as the Pirates do. Espcially when you have a need at the MLB level, which again the Pirates do.

  6. The Cole and Liriano starts provide hope on the pitching side that we are still in the wildcard hunt when you couple their performance with management finally deciding to take Locke and Niese out of the rotation.
    Now management has to face up to equally important performance based decisions on the lineup. If MLB doesn’t clear Kang I do not believe he can or will perform to his standards with the issue hanging over him. Freese is a better option right now if we want to win.
    Sadly, McCutchen’s performance cannot be ignored any longer. A liability in the three spot, a liability on the bases, and not our best option in centerfield. Stop coddling him…………………sit him down for three days for performance issues. He has been benched before and it worked. Right now Rodriguez, Frazier and Joyce in right with Marte in center give us a better chance to win.
    The starting pitching weaknesses have finally been addressed internally. If the goal is to win we have to face up to the lack of performance by Kang and the fast fading Face of the Franchise.

    • sad, but true. I still think throwing him on the dl and letting him go down to AAA to wreck a few pitchers would help tremendously

  7. Alen: I may be wrong but I did not see any mention of that play in the 2nd inning where the Pirates ran themselves out of a scoring opportunity. Jaso doubled, then Cervelli cannot even get the ball in play to move him over to 3rd. Then, with Kang at the plate, Jaso tries to steal his first base of the season, and gets picked off – pitcher to 3B for the out.

    A very stupid play with only one out and you are already in scoring position, but what got to me were the big laughs he and many others were having in the dugout after the play. Maybe I am just being too serious.

    Love the attitude of the Phillies kids – they do not even know they are not supposed to win.

  8. 97 pitches in six innings against a team like the Phillies is not a great start. Elfin had a great start, not Cole. The walk in the sixth was the big at-bat and that’s all on Cole. Two on and no out and you walk the next guy?
    Also, what kind of route was that by Cutch on that fly ball? The Pirates brass have to be wondering who the heck that guy playing center and batting third is? When is the last time he came to the plate and you actually had the feeling he was going to do something good? When’s the last time he actually came through In a critical situation?

    • My sentiments exactly! I argued this about Cutch in mid-June except for his defense. When he’s up to the plate, I don’t feel confident in him no more and it’s almost August. While a majority of ppl care about his average and numbers, I have a growing concern when he’s in a big spot and he doesn’t come through like you mentioned. PITCHERS AREN’T EVEN INTIMIDATED BY HIM ANYMORE!!! He should’ve been dropped in the lineup a month ago. ITS WORKED FOR EVERYONE ELSE SO FAR(except Kang at the moment)!

  9. Polanco just missed some sort of cycle of futility – IF pop ups to 2nd, SS and 3b, but a weak GO to 1b in last AB for an unassisted PO. I personally don’t recall ever seeing any player hit into 4 unassisted POs to the entire IF in just 4 ABs before. Not sure if Elias has that stat, but would be interested in knowing last time it was done.

    Would also love to know Harrison’s time from home to first on his IF hit. He was flying. That was Billy Hamilton speed and from the RH box to boot.

    Cutch just seems like he’s getting worse on defense. Can’t recall ever seeing him blow a route as bad he did last night. I don’t know what Hurdle can do with him, but I hope Skip figures out something that would effect a reset button.

    • I think Cutch is a bad centerfielder. That being said, I can’t fully blame him for that route, from the camera behind home plate, that ball was driven, cutch turned to get back, and then it hooked significantly when he had his eyes off it for a second. Yes, a gold glove center fielder would have made the play, but i’m not sure most average center fielders do, and he’s an average defensive center fielder on a good year.

      • The whole outfield defense is over hype, Marte and Polanco have great arms, but I don’t think they are great at chasing down fly balls hit to the gap, or going back.

  10. Alan, I will agree with you about being a strong and better start from a week ago in DC, but again, not completely sold on Cole being back as our Ace!! First, it’s the Phillies for God sake!! You suppose have a good start against them. The only bat I feared in this game was the dude that took Ryan Howard’s spot!! Other than that, they don’t have anything I want on my team!! I think he had 1 clean inning out of 6. Although I will give him credit for getting out of a bases loaded jam with no outs in the 6th. Just something is rubbing me the wrong way about this dude!! He is in the same boat with Frankie for me. I need to see some more starts.

    I really want to talk about Caminero!!! (Not Neise!! We all know what the hell is wrong with him!!) I am at a loss. And maybe I need some help with this. But I can guess every pitch Caminero will throw! Fastball, Fastball, Fastball, Fastball, Fastball, Fastball, Fastball, Fastball. It just pisses me off that he can’t throw 1 changeup. Can Uncle Ray come out and say “Arquimedes…throw a got-damn Changeup this next pitch please!!!” It’s just annoying as hell to see him pitch!! I blame him for our 4-0 loss (Not 1-0) because Niese would have never been in the game if Caminero would have held it at 1-0!! Maybe Philly would have gone to the pen at 1-0!! I understand offensively we were trash tonite and ran into a hellva buzz saw!! But Caminero gave us no shot tonite!!!

    With La and Miami losing, we are still in good shape for the Wild Card. It’s just frustrating to see us screw away games like this!!

    • You wouldn’t want Franco? They have a few players with better OPS than players we had in the lineup yesterday, for what its worth

  11. If only Cutch & Kang could be sent down to Triple-A. A joke, of course. But you all get what I’m saying in pure frustration. Personally, I’m concerned that Cutch is now trending downward as an overall player. He’s not good in any facet of the game right now, and we’ve seen glimpses of this over the past couple of seasons that have now culminated into a season like this. People can point to how he struggled and turned it around late last season, and that’s fine, I also hope to see the same thing happen this season.

    Like I said in a previous post, if Cutch is this bad again next season, his time in Pittsburgh is over. Hopefully Meadows continues his development to offset such a loss. But Cutch is simply a bad player right now in the absolute prime of his career, and you just don’t see that kind of drop off in talent like him at this age. Not very common. I guess we’ll see how August & September goes, and I’m still rooting for him regardless of my critique. I really like Cutch a lot and will always feel that his arrival is the very reason that this franchise finally became winners again.

    As for Kang, this dude can’t even hit .200 over a month of at-bats. Yeah, that legal issue has pretty much taken his mind away from the game. Sad, but another offensive problem that will likely sink this season. And here I thought it was easy to lay all of the blame on the pitching. Not so fast!

    • Kang might actually have an option. I’m pretty sure he had one last year, so maybe he has one this year, too. If service time is all that determines options remaining, he does.

    • Kang and Cutch do have options, per the 40 man roster and payroll.

      You have bought up something which seriously should be considered. Giving Kang a couple of weeks in Indy might help remedy his situation. He’s not contributing and some time away with everyday starts might be what he needs.

      Anything done with Cutch would be insulting and demeaning, but he needs some time away from the game as well. I’d like to see him moved in the order, either to leadoff or 6th or 7th.

      Cutch has been a gamer his entire career and is the face of the Pirates. But, for whatever reason, his skills have declined. Everyone is pulling for him to regain the magic and hopefully it comes soon.

  12. The offense sputtering along. Hope we could take 2 of 3, I’ve given up hope of a WC (I know it’s early, but too many ifs for it to happen none bigger than McCutchen, Kang and Liriano, etc…..). But I still believe that a winning record is very much possible.

    • Have to be impressed with recent Liriano efforts but Cutch is atrocious and not sure if anyone saw him and Harrison on intentional talk but his attitude was kinda weird cocky… Like acting as if he was the mvp Cutch not the sucking like ass Cutch.
      Kang has also tanked recently this legal situation must be in his head and he’s also had very inconsistent playing time recently too. Without those two playing well I fear you may be right about missing the WC.

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