I suppose that as bouncing back from 13-0 losses goes, this wasn't ideal. Really, what happened was that one bad inning probably kept the Pirates from winning this game. Gerrit Cole looked really sharp in the first inning, but his slider flattened out a bit in the second and he gave up a home run to Troy Tulowitzki. He certainly didn't have his best outing tonight, but he into the sixth inning without much trouble. In the sixth, he ran out of gas. He walked Dexter Fowler to open the inning, then needed seven pitches to strike out DJ LaMahieu. That put him over 100 pitches, which has been his unofficial ceiling for most of his time in Pittsburgh. Clint Hurdle let him try to get out of the inning, though, and so he faced Corey Dickerson and served up a run-scoring single. Justin Wilson came in, and gave up two more singles and a wild pitch that brought two more runs in before recording the two outs necessary to get out of the inning.
I mentioned the pitch count here, not to criticize Clint Hurdle, but to illustrate how hard it is to coach and develop young pitchers. In his first couple of starts, Cole faded as his pitch count got up and by the fifth and sixth innings, he wasn't really fooling hitters. His two starts before this one have been different, as he's cruised through seven innings in both of them with relative ease. Hurdle has said he doesn't want pitchers pitching to a pitch count (even though he's obviously got one in mind for them when they take the mound), and so pulling him at 101 pitches after a strikeout would've been a pretty difficult move to explain to Cole. And yet, with Fowler on second and the lefty Dickerson at the plate with Tulowitzki on deck, getting Cole out of the game at that point probably would've been the smart thing to do. It's certainly not an easy decision for Hurdle to make in that spot.
In any case, the Pirates were mostly stymied by Jhoulys Chacin tonight. They had a decent chance in the second when Neil Walker doubled into the Notch; there's some debate over whether he could've had a triple if he'd come sprinting out of the box and if he had made it to third, he probably would've scored. With one out in the third, Starling Marte singled, Walker belted another double off of the Clemente Wall, and Andrew McCutchen singled Marte in. It seemed like the Pirates finally had things clicking, and then Pedro Alvarez hit into an inning-ending double play. The Pirates didn't threaten again until the ninth, when McCutchen hit a one-out double and Alvarez singled him in, but Russell Martin and Gaby Sanchez both hit well-struck outs that count as outs all the same.
Anyway, two losses in a row and the division lead drops from 2 1/2 games to 1/2 game. I'm not sure that I'd say that this is a game the Pirates should've won, since Cole couldn't get out of the sixth inning and that's never what you want from a starter. They certainly could've won it, though. With Francisco Liriano going for the Pirates tomorrow and Juan Nicasio going for the Rockies on Sunday, the Pirates will have every opportunity to get back on track against the Rockies, even though it didn't happen tonight.