Pirates open West Coast trip by beating Dodgers, 6-3
LOS ANGELES — The Pirates touched down in southern California around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday. They took a 5 1⁄2-hour cross-country flight after a pair of two mistake-filled losses against the New York Mets.
“The farther we get from New York, the better for me,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “We could've kept going. They said, ‘This is the end of the ride,' and I said, ‘I guess this is far enough.' It's in the read-view mirror now.”
A four-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers offers a chance for a fresh start.
“Four games,” Hurdle said. “You can unpack your bags. We're going to be here a while, men. We've got to figure some things out. We've got to catch it better, throw it better and hit it better.”
Thursday's gritty, 6-3 victory against the Dodgers was a good first step.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole, the closest thing to an ace in a teetering rotation, did his job. Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin each hit a towering solo home run.
“It was a battle,” Martin said. “We never let that game get away. The whole team chipped in. We played some good defense. Cole really kept us in the game.”
Martin's homer gave the Pirates a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning. It was the first time they had scored more than two runs in a game at Dodger Stadium since Sept. 15, 2011.
The Pirates iced it by scoring three runs in the seventh inning off of reliever Brandon League. Key blows were struck by two guys who weren't in the lineup at the start of the season: Josh Harrison and Clint Barmes.
Harrison hit a pair of run-scoring singles in the game. Barmes, who started at shortstop in place of the benched Jordy Mercer (.190 batting average), went 3 for 4.
With a heavy dose of fastballs and a few well-timed changeups, Cole (5-3) worked 6 1⁄3 innings and allowed three runs on six hits. He walked two and struck out three and got 11 ground-ball outs.
“It was interesting; some at-bats they were patient and some they were really aggressive,” Cole said. “We stuck with our approach, and I made quality pitches.”
Pitching in his hometown in front of his friends, family and agent Scott Boras, Cole kept his emotions in check. He did it, Cole said, by repeating a mantra to himself on the mound.
“You're playing the Dodgers, and if you don't (control emotions), you're going to get your (butt) kicked,” Cole said. “Things don't always go your way, but you've got to keep your head down and keep pitching.”
With one out in the first inning, Andre Ethier zipped a grounder down the first base line for a triple. Yasiel Puig got enough of a 97 mph fastball to loop a run-scoring double into shallow right field. The ball plopped down in the no-man's land between Harrison and second baseman Neil Walker.
The Pirates desperately need Alvarez to heat up. He went 4 for 9 in New York, raising his average to .220, but did not drive in a run.
In the second inning, Alvarez hit a 1-2 cutter from Dan Haren into the visitor's bullpen beyond the right field wall. Alvarez's 10th homer run tied the game at 1-1.
Justin Turner singled to lead off the bottom of the second. With Haren on deck, Tim Federowicz (who likely missed a sign) bunted Turner to second base.
Haren struck out. However, Dee Gordon bounced a single up the middle to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead.
The Pirates tied it again in the fifth. Barmes singled with one out and Cole bunted him to second. Harrison connected on an RBI single.
Cole threw eight straight four-seamers to Puig and Hanley Ramirez in the sixth inning. Four of them were out of the zone. One was smacked off the center field wall by Puig for a double. Another was lined into right field by Ramirez for a game-tying single.