Cole drops to 0-6 against Reds as Pirates unable to finish off sweep
Clint Hurdle asked for the blame.
Perhaps running out of answers and explanations for his team's uneven play, a seemingly frustrated and agitated Pirates manager placed much of the responsibility for Sunday's sloppy 7-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on his desk.
The Pirates tried a new wrinkle to slow the fastest man in baseball, Billy Hamilton. First baseman John Jaso strayed a step from the bag when holding Hamilton, a different look. It didn't work.
Though the first seven innings Sunday, Hamilton stole four bases and scored three runs.
“We weren't where we needed to be with it,” Hurdle said of the plan to slow Hamilton. “End it right there. It's my responsibility.”
Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole again struggled with the Reds, and the bullpen floundered. The Pirates (55-54) hit 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position as they failed to sweep the last-place Reds (45-65).
“I'm taking all the things that didn't work and putting them on my desk. I do anyway,” Hurdle said. “I'm just trying to let you know, trying to cut down the questions. All that went wrong today comes to my table. I have to sort it out.”
The Pirates made two errors: A ball went under Jung Ho Kang's glove in the seventh to allow a run to score, and Juan Nicasio tossed away a pick-off throw in the eighth. The Pirates also committed a mental gaffe: Jordy Mercer was picked off first in the ninth with none out and the Pirates down by four runs.
“That would go right in that box, as well,” Hurdle said.
Of course, it's not all on the manager.
After the second Reds runner crossed the plate in the first inning Sunday, Cole crouched just beyond the mound in the center of the sun-soaked infield and hung his head.
The Reds are a different team. Slugger Todd Frazier was traded in the winter. The team's top power threat, Jay Bruce, was moved just before the deadline.
But the Reds still torment Cole.
Cole fell to 0-6 in his career against the Reds. After allowing four runs, all earned, in 5 2⁄3 innings, Cole's career ERA against the Reds increased to 5.44. It's his highest ERA against any team he has multiple starts against.
Cole began his day by walking Hamilton, who stole second and third and scored on an fielder's choice. Cole also walked Joey Votto, who scored on a Brandon Phillips single to give the Reds a 2-0 lead.
In the third, Hamilton doubled, stole third and scored on a Votto sacrifice fly to give the Reds a 3-0 lead. In the sixth, Adam Duvall reached on a fielder's choice and stole second. He scored on a Phillips bloop single to make it 4-1 and end Cole's outing.
“Fastball location was poor. Controlling the running game was poor. Pitch efficiency was poor,” said Cole, who threw 99 pitches. “You name it.”
Reds starting pitcher Dan Straily was perfect until Matt Joyce hit a 442-foot blast to right-center field in the fourth. The ball bounced onto the river walk.
Josh Harrison cut the Reds' lead to 4-2 in the sixth with a solo homer, but an erratic Jared Hughes and Curtis Partch combined to allow three runs in the seventh as the Reds extended their lead to 7-2.
But teams often make things interesting against the Reds bullpen.
In the bottom of the seventh, Raisel Iglesias walked the bases loaded with none out. Mercer scored Joyce with a groundout to cut the Reds' lead to 7-3. After Gregory Polanco flied out — he has been limited to pinch-hitting because of a balky left shoulder — Francisco Cervelli loaded the bases with a single.
Harrison stepped in, and for a moment, it appeared he tied the score with a grand slam. But the ball hooked just foul, perhaps 5 feet wide of the left-field pole.
He struck out on the next pitch.
“They say it's a game of inches,” Harrison said. “Sometimes it's a game of feet.”