Pirates lose to Mets, enter All-Star break with 56-37 record

| Sunday, July 14, 2013, 4:51 p.m.

After winning his first four major-league starts, Pirates rookie right-hander Gerrit Cole will take a three-game losing streak into the All-Star break following Sunday's 4-2 loss to the Mets.

Cole gave up three runs on four hits in a 31-pitch first inning, then settled down and held the Mets at bay, but the Pirates' feeble offense couldn't make up the difference. Starling Marte and Clint Barmes accounted for four of the Pirates' nine hits and, with a chance to sweep the Mets in a three-game series for the first time since 2009, the Pirates went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base.

They go into the All-Star break with a 56-37 record, still their best since 1975 when they were 55-33.

Cole said he knew well before it was announced that he'd start Sunday in place of Jeff Locke, who has a sore back, so short notice was no excuse for another rough first inning.

“I mean, I got guys where I needed to get them (in the count) and I didn't put them away,” Cole said. “Credit to them, they stayed in the at-bat long enough to get a pitch to hit, but the bottom line was they came out more ready than I did in the first inning so that's inexcusable.”

Cole became the first Pirates pitcher to win his first four starts since Nick Maddox in 1907, but at this time last year he was pitching in the All-Star Futures Game. He struggled with fastball command early and didn't throw his changeup — his best secondary pitch in his previous outing — until the second inning.

The rookie right-hander gave up a leadoff single for the third consecutive game. David Wright singled with one out, and Marlon Byrd hit a ground-rule double to left field to drive in the first run. Josh Satin walked to load the bases and bring pitching coach Ray Searage to the mound for an early visit, then two runs scored on a single to right field by John Buck.

Cole finished with six hits, two walks and five strikeouts in five innings and threw 89 pitches. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said there were some lessons learned Sunday.

“(He had) three 1-2 counts and all three hitters ended up singling,” Hurdle said. “It's just more experience. Keep getting him out there and understanding the importance of fastball command, understand the importance of what secondary pitch to go to when.”

Cole said that will come with time.

“I'll probably become more familiar with that when I become more familiar with the hitters and more mature, not try to get too antsy with two strikes and not trying to strike people out,” he said. “Not that I really do that a lot, but sometimes it can only take one bad pitch to turn the at-bat around the other way. Just keep staying aggressive I think is a big thing.”

Offensively, the Pirates did little to prop up Cole.

Starter Dillon Gee, who has never lost to the Pirates in his five starts (3-0), gave up one unearned run on five hits, walked one batter and struck out two.

“Stuff-wise it probably wasn't the best day, but I was trying to throw a lot of strikes, especially after the guys went out there and got us to an early lead,” Gee said. “(I wanted to) set a tone the first inning against a good pitcher, so I just wanted to throw a lot of strikes, try to keep them off-balance.”

The Pirates had runners in scoring position in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings but scored just one run in the eighth to make it 4-2.

“We go up there with a plan every time,” Hurdle said of the late-inning at-bats. “Sometimes we execute it better than others.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at kprice@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

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