Rookie pitcher Cole, Pirates take care of Nats
WASHINGTON — Some of Gerrit Cole's luster had faded in recent weeks as the Pirates rookie pitcher lost three straight starts.
Cole was brilliant once again Tuesday, dominating the Washington Nationals in a 5-1 victory.
Cole (5-3) worked seven innings and gave up one run on two hits. He retired 15 of his final 16 batters. Overall, he sat down 10 batters on three or fewer pitches.
“The conviction with the pitches was good. The command was very solid,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He was getting after people. That's what I liked.”
Cole's previous outing, the final game before the All-Star break, was bumpy. He gave up three runs in five innings against the Mets and later admitted he hadn't properly prepared.
“I've taken a lot from every game,” Cole said. “It's easy to learn when you have the damage right in front of you. I wanted to carry my previous seven starts into this one and just keep going and keep making adjustments.”
Over his first seven starts, Cole had struggled at times in the first inning. He went into the game with a 7.71 ERA and .969 opponent OPS in the opening frame.
Bryce Harper singled on Cole's second pitch, but the right-hander was unfazed.
“Anytime you keep that guy in the park, you're doing all right,” Cole said.
Harper was caught stealing, Anthony Rendon struck out and Ryan Zimmerman grounded out.
The Pirates took a 3-0 lead in the second against right-hander Taylor Jordan (0-3). If the Nationals had played tighter defense, however, the Pirates would've gotten only one or two runs.
Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin singled. Garrett Jones wasn't tempted by Taylor's sinkers and drew a five-pitch walk, loading the bases with none out.
Neil Walker, fresh off the disabled list, hit a grounder to second base to score Alvarez. Jones' hard slide at second broke up a possible double play.
Jordy Mercer followed with a grounder to third base, scoring Martin. Second baseman Rendon dropped the throw, and everyone was safe on the error.
With two strikes, Cole pulled the bat back and slapped a single into shallow left field. Walker scored from second for a 3-0 lead.
Cole made contact in all three of his at-bats and singled in the seventh inning. Cole is batting .357 (5 for 14) with two RBI and two strikeouts.
In the bottom of the third, Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos ran into a 92 mph four-seamer and drove it to center field. Andrew McCutchen jumped high enough to make the catch above the outfield wall, but the ball whizzed past his glove by inches.
It took a few moments for Ramos, who looked over his shoulder as he slowly rounded second base, and the crowd of 32,976 to realize it was a home run.
“Not that it needed to get Gerrit's attention, but that home run got his attention,” Hurdle said.
Cole did not allow another hit. In the fourth, he froze Zimmerman with a sinker for a called third strike. Adam LaRoche took a pair of sliders for strikes, then whiffed on a 98 mph fastball.
In the eighth, Alvarez hit his 25th homer, an opposite-field shot. Martin singled, stole second and went to third on Ramos' throwing error. Gaby Sanchez lined a pinch-hit, RBI double. Bryan Morris and Mark Melancon pitched the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, for the Pirates.