Suddenly, life feels a lot more normal.
Gerrit Cole went out and gave the Pirates eight really strong innings today, the Pirates’ offense got him a lead early on, and then Cole and Mark Melancon held on to it. In other words, a Pirate starter got a win. If it feels like it’s been almost a lifetime since that happened, it has been. The last time a Pirate starter got a win was April 17th, when Edinson Volquez went seven strong in the 11-2 laugher over the Brewers. Combined with today, those are the only two wins recorded by Pirate starters since April 11th. This really was just a normally played baseball game that ended with the Pirates’ winning. As it turns out, that hasn’t happened much this year.
Cole really was excellent today; besides Brandon Belt’s solo first inning homer and two-run fifth inning double, the Giants only had five other hits (four singles). He struck out seven, he only walked one, he threw 68 of his 107 pitches for strikes, and his fastball was as fast in the eighth inning as it was in the first. Really, it was the sort of start from Cole that you hope to see pretty much every time out. Given the bullpen struggles and the number of bullpen innings pitched on Monday, it was exactly what the Pirates needed from a starter for the second day in a row.
On the other side of things, Travis Snider and Andrew McCutchen really sparked the lineup at the top — Snider had two hits, a walk two RBIs, and a run scored while McCutchen had two hits, drove in a run, and scored one — while Chris Stewart and Gerrit Cole sparked a big inning by turning the lineup over in the bottom of the second with back-to-back singles, advancing on a wild pitch, and scoring on a Snider single. Stewart had a particularly nice day with two singles (of course) and a walk, while Cole is hitting .333 on the season.
The final bit of good news is that even though Mark Melancon had an uncharacteristic inning in which he gave up three straight fly balls, and of them were easy flyouts and he put the Giants down on 11 pitches. If we’re being honest, I didn’t think he looked particularly bad during his blown save on Monday (there were a lot of softy hit balls that found spots), but it’s nice to see a reliever do his job in a tight spot all the same after the adventures of Monday and last Thursday.
If you would like to be excessively positive (and why not?), the Brewers also lost today, so the Pirates will make up a game on them for the second straight day. The current 7 1/2 game deficit is hardly idea, but it’s also the closest the Pirates have been to first place since April 24th, so let’s just go with it.