PIRATES – DODGERS REACTIONS
By John Perrotto
The pitching matchup that hadn’t occurred in 42 years did not turn out to be much of a pitcher’s duel.
The Pirates beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-4 in 10 innings on Friday night at PNC Park.
By the time, Pedro Alvarez’s pinch-hit single with no outs and bases loaded won the game, both Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole and Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw were long gone following so-so outings.
It marked the first time the major league win leader (Cole) faced the major league strikeout leader (Kershaw) this late in a season since the Chicago White Sox’s Wilbur Wood squared off against the California Angels’ Nolan Ryan on Aug. 11, 1973, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Cole allowed three runs and four hits in six innings while striking out five and walking three. His record remained 14-5, though, and he has only one win in four starts since the All-Star break.
“I just wasn’t that good,” Cole said. “Two four-pitch walks. That’s not good. We played great defense and our guys answered back every time I seemed to give them an edge then we gutted it out toward the end of the game and won a game against some pretty tough customers. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t the way it was supposed to be drawn up but a win is a win.
“I was really sporadic at times. Fortunately, we caught (Kershaw) on a kind of an off night, too. It was just kind of weird game, not what everyone expected.”
Cole did pitch at least six innings for the 18th time in 22 starts this season — the other four have been against the Cincinnati Reds. He has allowed three runs or fewer in all but one start.
Kershaw had his streak of 37 consecutive scoreless innings end when Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco hit his first pitch of the game for a home run. Kershaw, who had won his previous four starts, gave up four runs and nine hits in six innings with two walks and five strikeouts.
“It was a tough one,” Kershaw said. “I struggled all the way through pretty much and give the Pirates credit. They did a good job battling me the whole night and I just didn’t really have good stuff.
“I was getting two strikes a few times and couldn’t really put anybody away. Both breaking balls weren’t really working the way I wanted to, so it was just a battle.”
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who will always be a hitting coach at heart, seemed to enjoy the fact that final score was 5-4 rather than 1-0 or 2-1.
“Sometimes it turns out that way,” Hurdle said. “Hitters get an opportunity to hit and everyone goes out and battles. It turned into a very good old-fashioned ballgame with a lot of give and take back and forth.
“Some opportunities were missed on both sides, both teams were playing hard. It was fun to watch, our guys continue to play and push and try to create situations.”
–The left-handed hitting Alvarez delivered his game-winning hit off left-handed reliever J.P. Howell, who was brought in after the Pirates loaded the bases against right-hander Jim Johnson on a walk to Jung Ho Kang and singles by Francisco Cervelli and Sean Rodriguez.
Alvarez had just 38 at bats against lefties this season with eight hits — a .211 batting average — and four RBIs. Yet he was able to line single into right field, even though Dodgers manager Don Mattingly went with a five-man infield by bringing in an outfielder.
“You don’t care where the defense is. My entire focus of the at-bat is on the pitcher and what he’s trying to do. That’s all you can control,” Alvarez said.
“He’s a very good pitcher. He has a good sinker and a good breaking pitch. I’m just trying to go up there, battle, get a pitch up and put a good swing on it.”
–Hurdle admitted before the game that he would not have had enough confidence in the left-handed hitting Polanco a few months ago to start him against a premier lefty like Kershaw.
However, the 23-year-old Polanco showed his continued development over the last month by taking Kershaw deep. It was the second straight game that Polanco led off the first inning with a homer, connecting off the Chicago Cubs’ Dan Haren on Wednesday night.
“Polanco made it happen in a hurry,” Hurdle said. “We knew Kershaw was going to attack and Gregory got to it with the barrel.”
—J.A. Happ is having his turn in the Pirates’ rotation skipped after making only one start.
Hurdle, taking advantage of a second scheduled off day in four days next Monday, will not start the left-hander in the pivotal three-game series against the Cardinals that begins Tuesday night at St. Louis.
Hapl would normally pitch Tuesday but left-hander Jeff Locke will instead start the series opener. Right-hander Gerrit Cole and left-hander Francisco Liriano will pitch the other two games.
The Pirates are six games behind the Cardinals in the National League Central, though they hold a three-game lead in the wild card standings over the Cubs.
Happ gave up four runs and eight hits in 4 1/3 innings in losing to the Cubs on Tuesday night at PNC Park in his Pirates’ debut. He was acquired from the Seattle Mariners on July 31 in a trade for right-handed pitching prospect Adrian Sampson.
With the Mariners, Happ was 4-6 with a 4.64 ERA in 21 games, including 20 starts.
However, including his lone Pirates’ start, Happ is 1-6 with a 6.80 ERA in his last 11 games. Opponents are hitting .312 off him in that span.
Happ will be available to work in relief during the three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers that started Friday night with the Pirates’ 5-4 win in 10 innings, and also against the Cardinals. He did not pitch Friday.
Happ will also try to work out some issues with his throwing mechanics with the aid of Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage.
“They’ll do some side work from time to time,” Hurdle said. “I think Ray and him have already touched upon what’s important, what we need to do to help him be the consistent pitcher that he showed the first half.
“It’s really not about fixing him. I think it’s more about fine-tuning some things.”