I sound like a broken record at this point, but pretty much every time Gerrit Cole takes the mound, something happens that makes me think, “Maybe this is going to be the night that it all clicks for him.” In this particular game, it was the 22 pitches that Cole needed to get through the third, fourth, and fifth innings. Cole had some trouble getting swings and misses tonight, but he made up for it by looking like Charlie Morton with a 98 mph fastball over those three innings. On the whole, he generated 12 groundouts and just two flyouts. The Dodgers hit some balls right on the laces in the three innings that they scored, which is what kept this from being a particularly great start, but Cole continued on his season-long trend of being massively talented, kind of frustrating, and generally good enough to help the Pirates to a win.
The offense managed to do their part for Cole by stringing hits together and, for the most part, making the most of the opportunities afforded them by the Dodgers. The club was 4-for-7 on the whole with runners in scoring position. Josh Harrison had two of those hits, both of which came after Clint Barmes singles and Gerrit Cole sacrifice bunts. In fact, three of those hits came in the seventh inning, when Harrison singled in Barmes to give the Pirates a 4-3 lead, then scored from second on a Neil Walker single. Walker then scored when Gaby Sanchez doubled off of Paul Maholm. When you mix in long home runs by both Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin, well, it was a nice night for the Pirates’ offense all around.
A few other things to note: Clint Barmes had three hits, which is also the same number of hits he had between May 11th and the start of this game. Russell Martin made a fantastic play from behind the plate by pouncing on a Dee Gordon bunt and swiveling to make the throw at first. It’s the second play he’s made like that this year that I can remember, and it doesn’t get less incredible. And finally, Tony Watson, Mark Melancon, and Jason Grilli held down the lead in the last 2 2/3 innings (Watson came in with one on and one out in the seventh and only needed one pitch to get out of the inning). I’m sure that Clint Hurdle dreams of the late innings going this easily from here on out with Grilli back, but I’ll just go ahead and be the guy that points out that it’s easier to hold three run leads than it is to hold one run leads.
The Pirates will see Josh Beckett, Hyun-jin Ryu, and Zack Greinke in the last three games of this series, while the Brewers will play the Cubs. I don’t mean to suggest that the Pirates have no chance at all of winning another game in this series, just that making sure to get one in the one game where they had an advantage in the pitching matchup was a pretty certain way to ensure that this series can’t be completely disastrous.