Late triple wastes Gerrit Cole's gem in Pirates' 1-0 loss to Cubs
The Pirates mashed a few balls thrown by Chicago Cubs pitcher Jose Quintana on Wednesday but got nothing to show for it.
It took almost the entire game before the Cubs made decent contact. They made it count, using Alex Avila's two-out RBI triple in the ninth inning to slip past the Pirates, 1-0.
“It's what stinks sometimes about the game,” Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer said. “It's part of it, but it still stinks.”
With one out in the ninth, Anthony Rizzo drew a four-pitch walk from reliever Daniel Hudson. Avila, who was hitless in five at-bats over his previous three games, connected on a 3-1 changeup.
Second baseman Sean Rodriguez was shifted into shallow right field, but the ball flew over his head and rolled into the corner. Pinch-runner Leonys Martin scored easily on Avila's triple, his first since 2013 and just the third hit of the game by the Cubs.
Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole and Cubs left-hander Quintana each tossed a gem, but neither figured in the decision.
“A tough ballgame,” Cole said. “We lined out so many times tonight. It's just unfortunate.”
Quintana worked six scoreless innings, allowed six hits, walked one and struck out six.
“He pitches in, changeup away,” Mercer said. “If he can locate that fastball in, he's going to pound the zone, and that's what he did. It's hard to hit an inside fastball at 94 mph. He always seems to jam you at the right time, too.”
Cole blanked the Cubs on two hits over eight innings. He walked four, struck out eight and retired 13 of 29 batters on three pitches or fewer.
It was the second time in a span of three starts that a dominant outing by Cole was marred by a lack of run support.
On Aug. 26, Cole blanked the Cincinnati Reds on five hits over seven innings. He had to club a solo homer to secure the 1-0 victory.
Cole checked the Cubs to one hit — a broken-bat, infield single by Javy Baez — through the first seven innings.
“I kept making good pitches early in the count and got rewarded for it,” Cole said. “I've been throwing the ball really well lately and just wanted to continue doing that.”
In the first, Cole issued back-to-back walks with one out. He got out of it when Rizzo tapped a comebacker to trigger a 1-6-3 double play.
Jason Hayward walked, and Baez singled in the second. Cole struck out the side, through, to stay in charge.
From the second to the seventh innings, Cole retired 14 batters in a row. The run included four strikeouts and five grounders.
Quintana allowed five baserunners from the second through the fifth innings, yet only two made it as far as second base.
The Pirates had two on with two out in the fourth when Mercer hit a screamer down the third-base line. Kris Bryant launched his 6-foot-5 frame into the air to stab the ball and rob Mercer of an extra-base hit.
“Jordy barreled that ball,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “I would image the tallest third baseman in the league was able to get up, get some air and glove it.”
Andrew McCutchen and David Freese began the sixth with consecutive singles.
Jose Osuna fouled off Quintana's entire arsenal — a pair of two-seamers, a 92 mph four-seamer, a changeup and a curveball — then put the 10th pitch of the at-bat in play. It was a hot shot to shortstop Baez, who began an uncommon 6-5-4 double play.
“What a great battle,” Hurdle said. “Fouling off pitches, and Quintana keeps throwing strikes. He smoked that ball on a short hop. For Baez to have the wherewithal to go to third … some tough luck.”
Sean Rodriguez's grounder ended the inning and continued the Pirates' frustration.
“The sixth inning could have been a turning point for us in a better direction,” Hurdle said.
The 26-pitch inning pushed Quintana's pitch count to 105, so Hector Rondon replaced him to start the eighth.
The Cubs got their second hit in the eighth when Jon Jay dropped a two-out single into left.
Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.