Gerrit Cole is the Pirates ace and one of the best pitchers in baseball, but in this particular game he needed a little lift from his offense in order to secure yet another win.
But that doesn’t mean Cole wasn’t very good, again, because he was, it just took him a few innings to really find his best stuff and once he did he shut the lights out on the Indians.
The Pirates used a 5-run fifth to take control of the game and then let Cole take care of the rest as they beat the Indians, 5-3, before a crowd of 36,812 at PNC Park.
It was the second win in a row for the Pirates (47-34) and their seventh in nine games and they also improved to 14-10-3 in series this season.
Cole (12-3) became the first pitcher in the Majors this season to 12 wins and despite some struggles early, made yet another strong case to be the starting pitcher for the National League in the All-Star game.
He pitched 8 innings, gave up only five hits and three runs, struck out five and walked only one and 69 of his 106 pitches were strikes.
But things didn’t start out well for Cole as Carlos Santana and Brandon Moss singled to start the top of the second inning and then Santana scored the first run of the game on an RBI single by Michael Bourn.
Bourn then stole second and advanced to third when Chris Stewart’s throw to second was errant and then he gave the Indians a 2-0 lead on a single to left by Roberto Perez.
Cleveland added another run in the top of the third and led 3-0 after Jason Kipnis led off with a double, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and then scored on Michael Brantley’s RBI single.
It took five innings for the Pirates to get their bats going but once they got started, they erupted for a huge inning and flipped the script on the game.
Jung Ho Kang got the hit barrage started in the fifth with a single and then Pedro Alvarez pulled the Pirates to within 3-2 with a towering opposite field home run.
Catcher Chris Stewart singled and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Cole and a single by Josh Harrison then Neil Walker tied the game, 3-3, with an RBI single that left the Pirates with two on and two out.
Andrew McCutchen then put a punctuation mark on the inning when he crushed a ball off the centerfield wall for two-run double that put the Pirates up 5-3 and also chased Indians starter Danny Salazar (7-4) from the game.
The Indians to Cole early but the outburst of runs came just as he had seemingly settled in and he retired the final 16 batters he faced.
Mark Melancon then pitched a scoreless ninth inning to earn his National League-leading 27th save.
Perhaps of bigger concern than any other development in this game for the Pirates was that outfielder Starling Marte had to leave the game with discomfort in his left side in the bottom of the 4th inning.
Marte was up to bat with two outs and nobody on and he swung and missed and then had to step out of the batter’s box as he held his side and was looked at by the Pirates athletic trainer.
He stood in for two more pitches but after a week foul ball, he had enough and he retreated back to the dugout and was replaced by Gregory Polanco, who promptly grounded out to end the inning.
Marte will be re-evaluated Monday.
Here are a few quick notes from Neal Huntington’s chat with the media:
Taillon timetable: Pirates general manager Neal Huntington had his weekly chat with the media prior to Sunday’s game and among the many topics he discussed was the health and status of heralded pitcher Jameson Taillon.
Huntington said that Taillon, who will have surgery to repair a hernia this week, is likely going to need some time to recover but he wouldn’t rule out a September call up for him if all goes well.
“We will see how the recovery goes,” Huntington said. “It is two months-ish. I mean, we have been told it is roughly two months until he is ready to compete. We are always going to leave the door open [for Taillon to return for September] but I don’t want it to become a story that we are looking for him in September.”
Sadler ailing: Another pitcher on the mend is Casey Sadler, who is currently with Indianapolis, as he is on the disabled list with a right forearm strain that has hampered him since spring training.
Huntington said the Pirates will take a cautious approach to getting him back in the lineup but said that he is getting closer to being ready to return.”
“He is making progress,” Huntington said. “We are going to wait until he is symptom free to get him throwing again and sometimes that is sooner rather than later and our hope in this case is that it will be sooner.”
Polanco staying: Polanco’s average is down to .233 and he has, at times, struggled with consistency but Huntington said there are no plans to send him down to Class AAA to work on his hitting.
“We believe Gregory Polanco is going to be a quality Major League player but there are growing pains, there is an evolution for a young player,” Huntington said. “And [a demotion for him] hasn’t even been a conversation.”
A very light session with the manager today. We will talk to the general manager a little later so I’ll add some of the highlights from that. But here are the news and notes from Hurdle as well as the lineups.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said that one of the ways the organization measures productive plate appearances is the statistic “pitches per plate appearance”, which is a measure of how many pitches on average a hitter sees when he bats.
The Pirates leader in that category is infielder Jung Ho Kang, who sees an average of 4.2 pitches per game.
And while he does not have enough at bats to qualify for the league leaders in that category, that number would put him in the top six in the National League (Joey Votto is first at 4.34).
“One of the ways, by our measure, you have a quality at bat is when see eight pitches or more,” Hurdle said. “There is nobody in the game with a 5+ per average so that shows how hard it is. You see guys with 4.2, 4.3 but that is about the tipping point, you don’t see a 4.6.
“[Kang] has a really good eye and is usually stubborn with his approach. And there is no hangover effect for him [after a bad swing] which is the sign of a good hitter, a confident hitter.”
Road to Recovery: Corey Hart went on the 15-day disabled list June 24 (retroactive to June 22) with left shoulder impingement but has begun his rehab assignment with Class AAA Indianapolis.
Hart has appeared in three games and has three hits in 12 at bats (.250 Avg) and has two home runs and four RBI and those are all good signs that he is on his way back according to Hurdle.
“We are going to continue to get him games,” Hurdle said. “We will try to get him some DH games, some first base games and then some back-to back-games. He has hit some homers and had some good swings.
“He feels good, he is getting some work, there is no urgency with it, we will take our times with this.”
Polanco sits: The Indians will start a right hander, Danny Salazar, Sunday but Hurdle still opted to sit lefty Gregory Polanco and instead used Josh Harrison in right field while Kang played third.
“We just thought it was a better matchup for us to try to win the game, with Kang at third,” Hurdle said. “[Salazar] is a bit of a reverse split pitcher and I didn’t want to ice Jung Ho by keeping him down too many days in a row.
“But also Polanco is stuck in a little 0-for-9 so we hope to slow him down and try to get him rolling again.”
Tougher market: Hurdle was asked if he thought the addition of the second wild card has changed the timetable for trading players with respect to the trading deadline since now more teams believe they have a chance to make the playoffs.
“I do believe that with the additional opportunity to get into the playoffs, teams are more hesitant,” Hurdle said. “They want to give it more time to wait and see. So you if you want to be one of those teams that go early, you better have some weight in your bag.”
Harrison - RF
Walker - 2B
McCutchen - CF
Marte - LF
Kang - 3B
Alvarez - 1B
Mercer - SS
Stewart - C
Cole - RHP
Kipnis - 2B
Lindor - SS
Brantley - LF
Santana - 1B
Moss - RF
Urshela - 3B
Bourn - CF
Perez - C
Salazar - RHP
Happy Fourth of July!!!
I hope you are able to spend time with your families and enjoy some good food and then sit down to watch some baseball...
Here are today’s pregame notes and lineups:
The Pirates traded minor league starter Clayton Richard to the Cubs Friday, which on the surface was not exactly huge news as he hasn’t pitched for the Major League team once this season.
However, below the surface that move could prove to be significant if the Pirates have an injury or two to the starting rotation because it is yet another blow to the organization’s starting pitching depth.
In fact, the Pirates starting pitching depth has gone from a strength to an area of real concern in a matter of a few months thanks to a rash of injuries.
As of right now, the next guy in line to start for the Pirates behind the five starters in the rotation and reliever Vance Worley is probably Radhames Liz, who was with the Major League team to start the season but was DFA’d May 25th after appearing in 11 games and failing to show any kind of consistency.
Beyond Liz the Pirates could look to some pitchers like Adrian Sampson and Chris Volstad, but they are all either unproven or to this point career minor leaguers.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle doesn’t think there is any reason to panic because the team has six capable starters on the Major League roster, but he does agree that the margin for error is far less than what it the organization had envisioned at this point in the season.
“No I still think we are in a place where we are covered,” Hurdle said when asked about the lack of depth. “If something were to happen here and we lost two starters that might change. We have lost our surplus, we had great depth at one point, now our depth isn’t as deep.”
The Pirates could have help in the form of Casey Sadley, who is only on the 7-day DL, but they have lost Nick Kingham, Jameson Taillon and Brandon Cumpton for the season and Tyler Glasnow is probably not a viable option for this year either.
Liz was not claimed by another club when he was DFA’d so he is back pitching with the Pirates Class AAA affiliate in Indianapolis and he has recently moved into the starting rotation.
He has made two starts so far June 26 against Syracuse (4 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 6 K) and then Wednesday against Colorado (5 IP, 1 R, 3 H, 7K) and Hurdle said he has heard nothing but good reports on his progress.
“His last two starts have been good,” Hurdle said. “His velocity has been good and these starts have been more in line with the numbers we saw in winter ball, and then you factor they are in AAA.
“But his overall command has been very good and the right steps are in place for him to find his way back, he just needs to continue to pitch and get innings.”
Hurdle said he obviously would rather have been able to keep Richard in the Pirates organization but when they signed him they told him they’d help him find his way back to the Majors and they have indeed delivered on that.
“It backs up everything we said to him and what we stand for,” Hurdle said. “We were going to do everything we could to help this man get back to the Major Leagues and we’ve done that.”
Hurdle was asked how seriously he takes All Star balloting and he said “I take it seriously, I take it very seriously. When I get my ballot, I want to vote for the guys I think will help [the National League] win the game.”. …He said there are many factors in who he chooses and yes, familiarity is one of them especially in cases of a player who has consistently been a nemesis to the Pirates “Believe it or not I voted for [Reds third baseman] Todd Frazier,” he quipped, “he was one of my first votes.”. …Hurdle said Pedro Alvarez has shown great improvement in his throwing accuracy in recent weeks. “Six or seven of the last eight throws he’s made have been right on the money to start double plays,” he said. …Neil Walker has been swinging a hot bat since being moved back to the second spot in the lineup and Hurdle said that’s where he is going to stay for the time being for obvious reasons. …Starling Marte made a great throw off the wrong foot to get Yan Gomes out as he tried to stretch a single into a double. Hurdle said that’s a play you can’t teach a guy to make who doesn’t have Marte’s natural ability. “He made it look so easy, he had a little rhythm, a little dance step, I think [famous dance school founder] Arthur Murray picked it up. He is very creative.”
Harrison - 3B
Walker - 2B
McCutchen - CF
Marte - LF
Alvarez - 1B
Cervelli - C
Polanco - RF
Mercer - SS
Locke - LHP
Kipnis - 2B
Lindor - SS
Brantley - CF
Gomes - C
Santana - 1B
Urshela - 3B
Moss - RF
Aviles - LF
By Paul Zeise
The Pirates bats were red hot and the team was coming off a sweep of Detroit and hoping to build on that momentum as they began a 10-game homestand Friday at PNC Park against the Cleveland Indians.
And by the end, a soggy start and a long rain delay, wouldn’t be the only thing that dampened the spirits of the Pirates fans as the Indians pitchers did their best to steal the joy of the home crowd, too.
The Indians used five pitchers to stymie the Pirates bats and won, 5-2, in front of a sold out crowd of 38,840 at PNC Park in a game that lasted more than five hours and ended well after midnight.
“We’ve been doing this a lot lately so I don’t think it is a challenge,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said when asked if he thought the rain delay made it tough for his team to get refocused and finish the game. “We have some experience doing this.”
Rain notwithstanding, the Pirates managed only three hits in the game – two of them came in the fourth inning – and really didn’t even mount many credible scoring threats considering they only left three men on base.
On the other hand, Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton got off to a rocky start as all three hitters he faced he faced in the top of the first inning hit the ball hard but he right at Pirates fielders.
So even though Morton survived that inning unscathed, it was clearly a sign of things to come and sure enough the Indians got on board in the top of the second.
Indians outfielder David Murphy led off that inning with a single and then Brandon Moss followed with a two-run homer to left and all of the sudden it was 2-0 Indians.
Morton got into trouble again in the top of the fourth as Moss was hit by a pitch, advanced to third on a single by Yan Gomes and then scored on a double by Michael Bourn.
The damage in that inning would have been worse except Starling Marte made a great play on the hit by Gomes and threw him out at second as he tried to stretch his single into a double.
Meanwhile, Indians starting pitcher Trevor Bauer was perfect through the first three innings but he, too, ran into trouble in the fourth and that allowed the Pirates to get back into the game.
Neil Walker led off the inning with a single to right then Andrew McCutchen blasted his tenth home run of the season – this one over the centerfield wall – and all of the sudden it was 3-2 Indians.
Morton (6-2) never really settled in and he was bailed out several times by his defense and as a result he managed to dance through the rain drops – both figuratively and literally as it was raining on and off throughout the entire game – and minimize the damage done by the Indians offense.
And his line wasn’t terrible, either, as he went six innings and allowed only four hits and three earned runs, but he also walked three and he wasn’t efficient and ended up throwing 104 pitches.
Hurdle said Morton didn’t have his best game but battled through some things and turned in a very credible performance.
“He was able to get his ball down but early on his ball was elevated a little bit and he made the one pitch to Moss where he left the ball over the plate,” Hurdle said. “But he had 11 guys retired on three pitches or less and 11 ground ball outs so his overall volume of work was pretty good.
“He gave us a start and kept us the game. It was a little less of the command we have seen but we kept setting the bar pretty high for ourselves when we keep trying to dissect the guy who pitched six innings and gave up only three runs as if he came up short…he didn’t.”
Antonio Bastardo took over for Morton in the 7th and worked his way into a jam of his own as he walked pitcher Trevor Bauer and second baseman Jason Kipnis and the Indians had men on first and second with only one out.
But like Morton before him, Bastardo got out of it as he struck out Francisco Lindor and got Michael Brantley to fly out harmlessly to left to end the inning.
Andrew McCutchen walked to lead off the top of the 7th inning and then Starling Marte hit into a fielder’s choice as McCutchen was forced out at second.
That meant the Pirates had a runner on first and one out and that’s when the umpires decided that the steady rain that had been falling for a lot of the night had soaked the field sufficiently to stop the game.
And to the delight of the fans who stayed in the park, the Cardinals-Padres game was shown on the Jumbotron during the rain delay and Pirates fans were able to cheer Jedd Gyorko’s RBI single in the 9th to lift the Padres to a 2-1 win.
It was the fourth loss in a row for the Cardinals (51-28) -- their longest losing streak of the season – and meant the Pirates would have a chance to pick up a game on them in the standings for the fourth night in a row.
The rain delay lasted 2 hours, 8 minutes and when the game finally got going again, the once sold out crowd had dwindled to a handful of spirited diehards.
Bauer (7-5) had been cruising for most of the game as the Pirates only managed one more hit off of him after the McCutchen home run – a 6th inning single by Josh Harrison that was cleaned up by a nifty 3-6-1 double play off the bat of Walker.
He came out to start the seventh inning but the rain delay ended his night after he went 6 1/3 innings and gave up three hits, 2 earned runs and threw only 74 pitches.
Lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski started for the Indians after the game got going again and he faced Pedro Alvarez with one out and Marte on first when the game finally got going again.
Rzepczynski struck out Alvarez on three pitches and then was done for the night as Indians manager Terry Francona brought in righty Zach McAllister to face Francisco Cervelli and he drew a walk.
McAllister then ended the inning – and the Pirates threat – with a strikeout of Gregory Polanco.
Hard throwing reliever Arquimedes Caminero started the eighth inning for the Pirates but he didn’t finish it, or even close to finishing it, and that wasn’t good news for the home team.
The Indians used a walk and consecutive singles to load the bases against Caminero and then Bourn broke the game open with a two-run single to right center.
“It is all about location,” Hurdle said with regards to Caminero’s inability to get outs. “His balls have been elevated [recently] more than they have been in the past.”
Hurdle then relieved Caminero with Jared Hughes, who got the Pirates out of the inning without giving up any more runs, but the damage had already been done as the Indians pushed their lead to 5-2.
Indians closer Cody Allen worked a scoreless ninth to pick up his 16th save in 17 chances.
The Pirates (45-34), who remained six games behind the National League Central-leading Cardinals, and Indians (38-41) will play again today at 4:05 and Jeff Locke (4-4, 4.55 ERA) will take the mound against rookie Cody Anderson (1-0, 0.57).