Cole strong arms Giants in Pirates win
Although the Pirates' offense fizzled after the first two innings Wednesday, right-hander Gerrit Cole got stronger as the game progressed.
Cole tossed eight strong innings as the Pirates edged the San Francisco Giants, 4-3, at PNC Park.
After winning two of three games in each of their past two series, the Pirates are showing signs of shrugging off the malaise that dogged them in April. If so, their timing is good: The St. Louis Cardinals will be at PNC Park this weekend for a three-game set that will culminate with a nationally televised Sunday night showdown.
“We're doing things with a little more consistency,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We would've like to have added on a few more runs today, (but) Cole pitched a very effective game. We made defensive plays. We pitched well. We found a way to score one more run than them. That's the way we kind of like doing it.”
Cole gave up seven hits, walked one and struck out seven. He also singled and scored a pivotal run.
Gaby Sanchez pinch hit for Cole in the eighth inning, so Mark Melancon tossed the ninth for his second save. However, Hurdle said Cole, who threw 107 pitches, was done for the day whether or not his spot came up in the eighth.
“No, that was enough,” Hurdle said.
Cole (3-2) was effective, albeit not dominant, early. Brandon Belt hit a two-out, solo homer in the first inning. The Giants also had at least one baserunner in the second, fourth and fifth.
However, Cole retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced. The Giants did not have another reach second base after Belt's two-run double in the fifth.
“I got a couple strikeouts in, a couple strikeouts away,” Cole said. “Just kind of changing, two-seam and four-seam, giving them different looks and putting it on the corner.”
Cole's best inning arguably was the eighth. He set down the heart of the Giants order — Hunter Pence, Belt and cleanup hitter Michael Morse — on seven pitches. Cole's final pitch was a 97 mph fastball. Morse made contact but could do no more than nudge it back to the mound.
“The power was still there for (Cole) at the end,” catcher Chris Stewart said.
Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum (2-2) lasted four innings and yielded four runs on eight hits. He walked two and struck out four.
Lincecum is not the same pitcher he was in 2008 and '09, when he won 33 games with a funky delivery and a blazing fastball.
On Wednesday, Lincecum's four-seamer sat around 89 mph, and it didn't fool anybody. His best weapon these days is the curveball.
Good curves netted Lincecum back-to-back strikeouts against Pedro Alvarez (end of the second inning) and Starling Marte (start of the third). But the pitch also was tagged for two big hits.
In the first, Andrew McCutchen laced a curveball into right field for a run-scoring single. With two outs, Marte jumped on a changeup for an RBI double.
Stewart and Cole hit consecutive singles with one out in the second, and both moved up on a wild pitch. Travis Snider — in the leadoff spot for the second time in seven games — pulled a curveball into right field for a two-run double.
The Giants lifted Lincecum for pinch hitter Pablo Sandoval in the fifth inning, and the move paid off. Sandoval singled, Pence walked, and Belt hit a two-run double.
The Pirates missed a chance to add a run or two in the sixth. Stewart led off with a single, but Cole grounded into a double play. Snider followed with a triple to right-center but was stranded when Neil Walked popped out.
Snider went 2 for 3 with a walk. The triple was his fifth in seven seasons — Snider was inspired to go for third after Marte won Tuesday's game with a walkoff triple and error.
“I hesitated, I thought about Starling, what kind of play that was and how it ended for us, so I was able to turn the corner and get the big body going,” Snider said.