One poor inning dooms Gerrit Cole, Pirates in loss to Brewers
MILWAUKEE — His fastball was live. His changeup was effective. Gerrit Cole made pitches Tuesday and, as evidenced by his season-best 10 strikeouts, the Milwaukee Brewers had trouble putting the ball in play.
Except in the third inning. And that was enough to sink him.
The Brewers put up four runs in the third and eased to a 5-2 victory against the Pirates.
"You're going to get marked throughout the year," Cole said. "You're going to get marked on good pitches and on bad pitches. It just kind of sucks when it all comes together in an inning like that, and you put (the game) out of reach."
The setback extended what is becoming a maddening pattern lately for Cole.
On Aug. 21, Cole gave up five runs against the Los Angeles Dodgers. In his next start, he blanked the Cincinnati Reds.
On Sept. 1, Cole gave up five runs against the Reds. In his next start, he blanked the Chicago Cubs.
On Tuesday, Cole yielded five runs on seven hits and two walks.
"His last three innings were real strong," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Really, it was less than a handful of pitches that caused the scoring."
It's not that Cole is running out of steam in the final weeks of the season. In the fifth inning, as his pitch count clicked over 70, he fired three fastballs at 99 mph and one at 100 mph to Ryan Braun and Travis Shaw.
Poor command was not an issue, either. Even good pitches can be blasted, as Eric Thames showed in the second inning.
With Cole ahead 0-2, catcher Chris Stewart called for a fastball high and away. Cole's pitch was headed for Stewart's glove, until Thames reached out and made contact.
"We beat him upstairs quite a bit this year," Cole said. "Threw one up and in, a fastball, and got it by him. Froze him on the second one in. Tried to go up and away, kind of expand the (strike zone) and he just wasn't going to get beat on it again. He put a good swing on it."
The ball traveled 419 feet into the upper deck in right field. It was Thames' 29th home run of the season.
With the Pirates ahead 2-1 in the third, the Brewers loaded the bases on back-to-back singles and a walk. Neil Walker was called out on an 0-2 curveball that grazed the outer edge of the zone.
Braun hit a sharp grounder deep into the hole at short. Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer grabbed it and made a strong throw to get an out at second base. Keon Broxton scored to tie it at 2.
After Braun stole second without a throw, Shaw, a left-handed batter, was intentionally walked to bring up righty hitter Domingo Santana.
With the bases loaded, Santana dropped a double that landed fair by about a foot. Two runs scored.
Thames scorched a grounder past first baseman Jose Osuna. Second baseman Rodriguez snagged the ball in shallow right field, but had no play at first base. Shaw scored to make it 5-2.
"I'm not making excuses," Cole said. "That inning lost the game, and I let it get out of control. I just wasn't crisp when I needed to be.
"If a couple ground balls go to guys, maybe it has a different outcome. The pitch to Santana has to be better. A good pitch to Braun and didn't get rewarded. Made a good pitch to Thames. We went hard on him in the first at-bat, then went all soft on him in the second at-bat. The curveball didn't get down to the dirt, but it was borderline strike and he did a good job on it."
Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.