Padres beat Pirates, 2-1, to avert sweep
SAN DIEGO — When Gerrit Cole returned to the dugout following the sixth inning Wednesday, he knew his day was done. He owned a two-run deficit that felt like a much more significant weight on his shoulders given the state of the Pirates' offensive capability.
Cole sat with his head fixed parallel to the ground, not flinching as Pirates catcher Russell Martin nudged his shoulder several times, apparently in an effort to console him.
Coaches and teammates have commented on Cole's competitive nature as much as his triple-digit fastball. And in the midst of the Pirates' 2-1 loss to the Padres, Cole knew he hadn't been good enough. He appeared disgusted with himself.
“I just felt like I let a good opportunity slip away,” Cole said. “We had an opportunity to come here and sweep and set the tone for the San Francisco series. I was just disappointed that I wasn't able to better help the team.”
Cole has struggled to move beyond mistake pitches or parts of the game beyond his control. He has struggled to stay in the moment.
“I just think he's an emotional guy,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “I don't read anything into that. I think that's one of the things that fuels him. I don't want to take that away from him. He has fiery emotion. We'll let it play, and I think it will find its settling point.”
Cole (6-6) knew he didn't have the fastball command he needed to complete a Pirates sweep at Petco Park. The Padres laced 10 hits off the rookie right-hander, slashing line drives all over the field.
Cole knew his breaking ball again remained an inconsistent, unfinished product, much like it had been in his last start against Arizona.
Cole allowed two runs in his six-inning outing. He struck out five and didn't walk a batter.
Padres outfielder Will Venable smashed a hanging Cole changeup to right for a double to begin the third and later scored on Yonder Alonso's sacrifice fly for the game's first run.
Alonso, a left-handed hitter, struck again in the fifth. He lined an elevated Cole fastball into left to score Chris Denorfia, who had singled off a Cole two-seam fastball — a pitch he threw more often Wednesday — into center field and then stole second base. Alonso's second RBI gave the Padres a 2-0 lead.
“The execution on the inner-half of the plate, especially against left-handers, has to be better,” Cole said.
Cole also knew he needed to be nearly perfect, what with the Pirates' oft-challenged lineup.
San Diego starter Ian Kennedy began the game in the midst of his worst season since his rookie year with the Yankees in 2008. On Wednesday, he pitched seven scoreless innings and allowed four hits. He struck out eight and walked three.
Kennedy has lacked trademark control for much of the season. He walked Pedro Alvarez and Martin in the first after allowing a two-out hit to Andrew McCutchen. But Kennedy was able to get out of the jam by striking out the struggling Garrett Jones with a sinking fastball. It was the Pirates' only true threat against Kennedy.
“His changeup was filthy, and his fastball command came around in the second inning,” Hurdle said. “He's capable. He has the pedigree.”
The Pirates didn't score until the eighth. Padres reliever Luke Gregerson walked Felix Pie, who was making his Pirates debut. He advanced to second on Neil Walker's groundout, reached third on a passed ball and scored on McCutchen's sacrifice fly.