Today was Gerrit Cole‘s day and nobody could stop that. Well, nobody not named Clint Hurdle at least. It was Jon Lester getting the early game attention as he was pitching a no hitter, but it was Cole who prevailed and earned the first win against the Cubs on the season.
Gerrit Cole was back to his vintage dominant self today because, well, he’s an Ace and this is what Ace’s do. He started the game by allowing what was scored a double by Dexter Fowler. Really, Fowler hit a high pop up that Jordy Mercer lost in the sun and fell in front of him. It was great hustle and a heads up play on Fowlers part, but by no means should that have dropped. Cole did not let this get in his way. He went 8 shutout innings allowing just three hits, no walks, and striking out seven while throwing just 95 pitches.
With a two run lead and two men on and just one out during the 8th inning, Gerrit Cole was due up to the plate. Clearly, the correct decision here would have been to let Cole hit so he could finish out the game, but Hurdle decided to pinch hit for him to try and keep the runs going. Matt Joyce took the at bat and grounded right to Rizzo earning the out.
I do not get this decision and think it was very wrong. Cole was pitching possibly the best game in Black and Gold, and taking the ball away from him was a bad judgement call. Mark Melancon certainly is a great closer, but when a starter is pitching that effectively with that low of a pitch count, you keep them in there. Melancon should have warmed up in the pen, as he was, and kept in the pen until a baserunner is put on. You may reference the decision with Matt Harvey in the World Series last year, but Harvey had to argue his way back to the mound and Collins didn’t prepare anyone in the bullpen. He was left out there alone and lost the game that way.
Ether way, Melancon did take over in the 9th and made Pirates Nation very nervous. He gave up a Fowler walk and a Jason Hayward single to open the inning. Kris Bryant then flied out to center, while Anthony Rizzo sacrificed in Fowler to make it a 1 run game. With Ben Zobrist to the plate, Melancon took him to a full count before he grounded out to Harrison to end the game.
As mentioned, Jon Lester had a no hitter going until Starling Marte broke it up in the 7th on a single to right field. Jung Ho Kang would then drive in Marte on an RBI doublet right field as well. At this moment, Lester would leave the game. His line for the day was 6.2 innings pitched, one earned run, two hits, two walks, while striking out nine.
Today’s offense came from the bat of Kang. Along with the RBI double he had in the 7th, Kang also drove a Hector Rondon pitch 382 feet over the center field wall for his fourth home run in eight games upon his return. Andrew McCutchen ended his hit streak as he went 0-5 with two strikeouts.
To end on another positive note, Pittsburgh now enters a 10 game homestand where they face the Atlanta Braves, Colorado Rockies, and Arizona Diamondbacks. The Chicago Cubs next three series will be against the Milwaukee Brewers, San Fransisco Giants, and St. Louis Cardinals. The Pirates series all are very winnable and this looks to be a great time to cut into the Cubs’ NL Central lead. Currently, they are eight games up on the Pirates. If you can recall this date last season, the Pirates were 17-19 and down 7.5 games to the Cardinals. The Bucs are far from calling it a season at this point.
Tomorrow the Pirates begin their four game series against the Atlanta Braves. Atlanta is just 9-26 and dead last in almost every offensive category. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 at PNC Park. Jon Niese (5.63 ERA) will face off against Williams Perez (3.54 ERA). If there is anything to take away from this, never trust a pitcher with two last names!