Long day for Gerrit Cole, Pirates in loss to Brewers
MILWAUKEE — Neil Walker didn't savor hitting a two-run homer off his close friend and former teammate. Gerrit Cole certainly did not enjoy serving it up.
That's what happens, though, when a homer-happy club like the Milwaukee Brewers crosses paths with Cole, who's been a frequent victim of long balls this year.
On Wednesday, the Brewers mashed five home runs — three of them off Cole — and edged the Pirates, 7-6.
"I have a couple friends in this league. I don't look forward to facing or enjoy facing them," said Cole, who sent Walker a text message after the game. "I'd rather just be friends, but ... you know, whatever."
The Pirates took a 6-5 lead in the eighth when Josh Bell tripled and scored on Adam Frazier's single.
In the bottom of the inning, reliever Juan Nicasio (1-5) gave up Jesus Aguilar's infield single and Manny Pina's decisive two-run homer.
In six innings, Cole gave up four runs on five hits and struck out nine. He wasted an early four-run lead.
"It's frustrating to get spotted that and not be able to hold it," Cole said. "That's the sour taste in my mouth right now. My pitch execution today was pretty good, but … we wanted to win this one bad."
Poor pitch location led to Walker's home run. That was not the case, Cole said, on the solo blasts by Keon Broxton and Travis Shaw.
"They were right where we wanted," Cole said.
Cole has allowed multiple home runs in six of his 25 starts this season. That includes three three-homer games — all of them coming over his past 15 appearances.
Overall, Cole has allowed 26 homers, the third-highest total in the majors. The Pirates' single-season record is 32, set by Murry Dickson in 1951.
The Brewers went into the game with 172 homers, tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers for sixth-most in the majors. By the end of the day, Milwaukee had climbed to fourth place.
"That's how this team was built, with the ability to hit those deep fly balls," Walker said.
The Pirates were ahead 4-0 after three innings, 5-4 in the seventh, and 6-5 in the eighth.
"We kept coming, and they kept coming back," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We did a lot of nice things. Everything except win the game."
With two outs in the third, the Pirates put five straight batters on base and built a 4-0 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, Broxton launched Cole's first pitch over the wall in right-center.
"I was looking for a fastball middle-away early," Broxton said. "Cole is a great pitcher, so you've got to jump on him early. You've got to jump on his mistakes, and I think he left that one more middle than middle away. I got good wood to it, and it took off."
With one out, Eric Sogard walked. Walker hammered a changeup.
"It was a mistake," Cole said. "That's the one I want back."
Walker was looking for something out over the plate.
"He'd been painting the outer corner for most of the game," Walker said. "And he left the changeup up in the zone enough for me to pull it."
After Josh Harrison's RBI single put the Pirates up 5-4, George Kontos replaced Cole to start the seventh. Since joining the Pirates on Aug. 5, Kontos had retired all 24 batters he had faced.
Broxton snapped Kontos' streak with a home run to left-center, his 19th of the year. He also leads the majors with 143 strikeouts.
"I think my power's always been there," Broxton said. "I developed over the past two years to get the backspin and, really, just to get the barrel to the ball."
Over two seasons (260 games) in the Pirates' farm system, Broxton went deep 25 times. Yet, he wasn't going to get regular playing time in the majors as long as the Pirates had Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco.
After Broxton went hitless in seven games (two at-bats) for the Pirates in 2015, he was traded to the Brewers for Jason Rogers. Seven weeks ago, Rogers was released from Triple-A Indianapolis so he could play in Japan.
"Anytime you do something good against a former team, it feels good," Broxton said. "It feels good to let them know what they're missing out on."
Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.