Pirates finally give Cole run support, top first-place Nationals
The Pirates on Wednesday finally rewarded right-hander Gerrit Cole with some run support.
Cole turned in his eighth straight quality start, yielding just three hits over seven innings in a 6-1 victory against the Washington Nationals.
"Usually, two runs is all we really need with him pitching," said John Jaso, who was so revved up he scored all the way from first base on Andrew McCutchen's single in the seventh inning.
Two runs might be enough when Cole is working, but the Pirates haven't even done that much for him lately.
Over Cole's previous five starts, the Pirates had scored a total of five runs. Going into the game, his 1.98 run-support average was the lowest among major league pitchers.
"We always want to get runs, no matter's who on the mound, not just Gerrit," McCutchen said. "He hasn't really had run support, though. It was good to finally get him some support."
Josh Bell clubbed his eighth homer, a three-run shot. McCutchen, who before the game changed his walkup music to "Bounce Back" by Big Sean, had two hits, including a two-run single.
Cole credited McCutchen's single as "the dagger" that put the game out of reach. With Adam Frazier on second base and Jaso on first, McCutchen lined the ball toward the right field corner.
"When Cutch hit it, I saw the ball tailing and read how far (Bryce) Harper had to go to possibly catch it," Jaso said. "So, I made the decision to go."
Jaso took off on contact, but Frazier waited until the ball dropped. As a result, Jaso nearly ran up Frazier's back as they sprinted toward the plate to make it 5-1.
"I just kept going," Jaso said. "We had the lead, and we wanted to pad the points even more. Usually when I err, I err on the side of aggressiveness,."
Through six innings, Cole (2-4) allowed only one hit — a looping single to shallow left field by Jose Lobaton, who went into the game batting .111.
Overall, the Nationals' first four batters — Trea Turner, Jayson Werth, Harper and Ryan Zimmerman — went a combined 0 for 15.
"It's important to stay aggressive against that lineup," Cole said. "If you start staring at their batting averages and the names on the backs of their jerseys, it can be a little overwhelming. You've got to stick with the process."
Cole fired first-pitch strikes to 20 of 25 batters and induced lots of weak contact.
Nationals righty Jacob Turner (2-2) scattered hree singles through five innings. In the sixth, though, Turner lost steam as his pitch count ticked past 80.
Jaso drew a leadoff walk, but was forced out on McCutchen's fielder's choice grounder. David Freese was plunked near his left shoulder.
McCutchen swiped third base without drawing a throw. McCutchen is 4 for 5 in steal attempts this season after stealing just six bags all of last year.
Turner's 83rd pitch was a full-count sinker. Bell turned on it and launched the ball into the right field seats.
"A two-seamer in," Bell said. "I got it in my first two at-bats and knew he was coming back to it. It's a fastball in that starts at your kneecap and breaks virtually down the middle. It's a great pitch.
"Seeing it twice … fool me twice, shame on (me). That third time through, shame on you for throwing it."
It's the first time since April 14 — six starts ago — that the Pirates scored more than one run while Cole was still in the game.
The Nationals got a run in the seventh. Daniel Murphy singled. Brian Goodwin lined a double off the Clemente Wall.
Before the game, right fielder Danny Ortiz was called up when Gregory Polanco (hamstring) went on the disabled list. The move gave the Pirates a more capable defender than any of the converted infielders they've been sticking in the outfield lately.
Goodwin's hit bounced high off the wall, but Ortiz patiently waited for it, made a fine grad, spun and fired toward the infield. Murphy was a bit slow around third, but second baseman Gift Ngoepe double-clutched before throwing.
Murphy slid in just head of the tag to make it 3-1.
Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.