Gerrit Cole backs up Pirates defense after it fails him again

By Stephen J. Nesbitt / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 5 years ago

RHP Gerrit Cole (USA Today)

ST. LOUIS — Gerrit Cole won’t blame the Pirates defense. And that probably is a shrewd decision. Cole is 24, the team’s emerging ace, and his start was far from perfect, anyway. So, he stuck with that. He said wasn’t good enough. He “blew it” in the sixth inning, and the Pirates lost, 4-2.

Manager Clint Hurdle was quick to assign blame where it belonged.

"[Cole] has had four outings in a row where we haven't defended the ball very well behind him,” Hurdle said. “Runs have been tainted throughout his outings, and tonight was another indication of that. He pitched well. He deserved better.

”We're not making plays behind him."

Hurdle was off, but only by a little. The Pirates defense has done in Cole in four of his past five outings. This goes back to Kansas City July 21, the night Cole pitched into the eighth only to watch a grounder skip under Neil Walker’s glove. Hurdle said the Pirates got in their own way. Cole took the loss and the blame. “Walker makes that play 99 times out of 100,” he said. “Who cares about that? We had an opportunity to get a double play there, and we didn't get it.”

Let’s look at the past five starts:

July 21: 3-1 loss vs. Royals. Cole went 7.1 innings allowing 5 hits and 3 runs, 2 earned. Errors: 2. Misplays: On three plays in a row, Walker let one through the wickets; Andrew McCutchen threw to the wrong base; Gregory Polanco bobbled a ball in right.

July 26: 3-1 win vs. Nationals. Cole went 7.2 innings, allowing 7 hits and 1 run. Errors: 0.

Aug. 1: 4-3 loss vs. Reds. Cole went 5 innings, allowing 7 hits and 3 runs, 2 earned. Errors: 0. Misplays: Andrew McCutchen made the same mistake Polanco did last night, charging too hard and letting the ball past him for a triple. Pedro Alvarez also had a pickoff throw fly through the webbing of his mitt, but the runner stayed put.

Aug. 6: 5-4 win vs. Dodgers. Cole went 6 innings, aloowing 4 hits and 3 runs, all earned. Errors: 1. Misplays: First two runs scored on a grounder to the hole that Aramis Ramirez couldn’t turn into an out. A tough play, but not a two-run single. Chris Stewart got called for catcher’s interference, leading to the final Dodgers.

Aug. 12: 4-2 loss vs. Cardinals. Cole went 5.1 innings, allowing 7 hits and 4 runs, 3 earned. Errors: 2. Misplays: Ramirez booted a grounder in the hole. Jung Ho Kang missed a low line drive. Walker fired a throw in the dirt, and Pedro Alvarez couldn’t scoop it. Polanco charged and had the ball skip past him for a game-winning triple. Ramirez applied a slow, high tag on a steal of third.

Last night, Cole was as enlightening as ever when meeting with the media. The answers are clear and full from start to finish, so make sure you stay until the end. Here’s the whole transcript ...

How do you assess everything overall tonight?

"Disappointing. We minimized damage in that hectic inning there early. Team fought back, scrapped back, got me back in the game and I thew a couple shutdown innings there when we needed to. Obviously couldn't finish off the night. The fastball location in the last inning was subpar. Tried to go in on [Yadier] Molina. Pulled it all the way across the middle of the plate. Same thing with [Randal] Grichuk, before [Stephen] Piscotty burned us after too many fastballs inside. It hasn't been the easiest last few starts. We can hopefully get after it this week and try to turn it around."

The defense has let you down these last few starts? How frustrating is that?

"These guys are out there giving 100 percent every night. These are the dog days of August, a grinding time of the year, and we're in a tough venue playing a tough team. That really magnifies any mistake you make. It's not frustrating for me. It's probably frustrating for us as a whole. Nobody wants to come out and not play sharp against these guys, especially. It's just part of the game. You're going to get dealt bad hands sometimes. It's what you do when you get those, and how you handle them. They fought. They got me back in the game. I blew it again in the sixth. It's frustrating from that aspect, not being able to pick them up after they scrapped so hard to get back in the game."

How do you maintain focus to not let Cards take advantage?

"You've got to do a good job of just trying to make one pitch at a time. Just keep trying to execute pitches, not let the last pitch affect the intent on the following pitch. Try to separate it the best you can, because things can spiral real quick. It's not easy, but it's expected. This is the big leagues, man. There's no excuses. There's no 'You tried hard.' You don't get wins for trying hard, man. You get wins for exectuing and beating the other team. It was just frustrating I wasn't able to pitch the guys back up tonight."

With the club's fortunes playing here, is there any sense of trying to stop a rolling snowball?

"You want to be the guy to be able to do that. That adds a little extra sting tonight. I went out there and made some good pitches early. We had that weird inning, but we fought back. I'm going to have to be better. I'm going to have to look at some of the missed locations and some of the delivery whatever, or maybe it's intent or whatnot, I'm not sure. But I've got to be better than that, especially against this ballclub."

You and Frankie [Cervelli] were good? (Working together for first time since early May)

"No issues. Maybe one too many heaters inside to Piscotty, but at the same time we handled him in that situation last night with fastballs in, and we got him pretty good early in the game. That's what makes this club so dangerous. They make adjustments throughout the game. Sometimes they stick to their approach and don't let your approach change theirs. And sometimes they go back after your approach and understand what pitches you're making and what your strengths are and attack that. It's a constant game out there with them, that's what makes them so tough."

How much do you enjoy these games against the Cardinals?

"I enjoy it a lot. It's fun. I enjoy every game — I only get to play twice a week, so I try to enjoy them as much as I can. They're fun. Every atmosphere in any ballgame, especially down the stretch, is fun. It's just unfortunate I couldn't get the job done tonight."

The felt reminiscent of last month in Kansas City ...


Is it important to you to not place blame anywhere else?

"Nobody's going to be perfect the whole time. Pitchers are going to make mistakes. Defense is going to make mistakes. Those guys are fighting their ass off every night just like I am. You've got to look at it from a team perspective. I don't look at it like they let me down. I take the positives from it, because I don't think they did [let me down]. They fought, they got me back in the game. There's no defense for balls pulled over the plate or line drives just crushed into the outfield. There's no defense for that. That's why. I had an opportuntity to keep them in the game, and I didn't."

Is the toughest things about this defeat the fact it's the Cardinals in the other clubhouse?

"I mean ... No. No. Not just because it's St. Louis. Just because I think we want to win every game. We go out there not taking the day before with us, not looking too far in the future. We focus on every game. We put a lot of intent and effort into winning every game. When you don't get the results you want, or when a few of them string together in a row, it's not the easiest thing to deal with. Especially when, I guess, when your mistakes get magnified in this division. It can grind at you a little bit."