PIRATES – NATIONALS REACTIONS
By John Perrotto
PITTSBURGH — Gerrit Cole notched his major league-leading 14th win of the season Sunday but manager Clint Hurdle believes the right-hander earned the victory during the first three games of the Pirates’ four-game weekend series with the Washington Nationals at PNC Park.
“He was hunting in the dugout every game, hitters, watching how our guys went at them, how they’re set up at the plate, what kind of swings they were taking,” Hurdle said.
Cole (14-4) then did a good job of implementing his game plan against the National League East-leading Nationals in the 3-1 win, holding them to one run on seven hits in 7 2/3 innings with no walks and eight strikeouts.
“They were aggressive,” Cole said. “It played into the pitch selection a little bit. There was still a good handful of mistakes out there but we were able to limit the damage, make a pitch in big situations and not let it change our game plan.”
Cole became the first Pirates pitcher with 14 wins by the end of July since Dock Ellis was 15-4 in 1971.
Cole kept his record perfect against the NL East this season as he is 6-0 with a 1.26 ERA in six starts. Cole also improved to 7-1 with a 1.84 ERA in eight day starts and 9-2 with a 2.15 ERA in his last 12 overall outings.
“Tough customer against us today,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said.
Cole was so good that he was incredulous over the run he gave up, a solo home run to right-center by rookie center fielder Michael Taylor in the third inning that opened the scoring.
“I don’t know what the heck Taylor did on that pitch,” Cole said. “He was pulling off all day from the first pitch of the game, I challenged him up in the zone and he beat the ball to the plate and rolled it over to (third baseman Aramis) Ramirez for me.
“In that third, he stayed big trying to go to left-center but being the second at-bat he went underneath the zone and went opposite. It was just a different swing that he had taken.”
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle agreed with Williams’ tough customer assessment.
“I just think the focus, the intent to pitch, the execution of the pitches again,” Hurdle said. “Very well-pitched game. He used all his pitches. The slider played. Threw some really wicked sliders. He got after it. Fun to watch.”
It seems to be a fun day for the Pirates every time Cole takes the mound. However, Cole attributes much of his success to playing on a team that is 57-41 and leads the NL wild-card standings.
“It’s really special,” Cole said of being the first pitcher in the majors to 14 wins this season. “I try not to reminisce or focus on it right now, we’ve got four months in the offseason to do that kind of stuff.
“It’s been a collective effort to get the wins where they are. Obviously there’s a lot of different factors that can go into that but they wouldn’t be where they are if it wasn’t for how well we’ve played as a team, wasn’t for the effort that those guys give me every time I step on the mound.”
MORE POST-GAME BUZZ
–Cole was just paying lip service to his teammates. The Pirates made two outstanding defensive plays on Nationals start right fielder that helped Cole get win No. 14.
Right fielder Gregory Polanco threw out Harper at second base to end the first inning as he tried to stretch a single.
“The tone was set today by Polanco,” Cole said. “Off the wall, perfect read, on the money right to second base, Harper obviously trying to get something going right there. He’s a big key to their lineup.”
Said Hurdle: “There’s only a handful of guys in the game that can make that throw. At the base of the wall, get that ball right on the bag in the air,”
— Utility player Sean Rodriguez also made a fabulous play against Harper to end an eighth-inning uprising while serving as a defensive replacement for first baseman Pedro Alvarez.
Down 3-1, the Nationals had runners on first and third with two outs when Rodriguez made a diving stop of a hard shot then threw to reliever Tony Watson in time to retire the sliding Harper at first base.
“That was one of those in-between ones,” Rodriguez said. “I had to look to (second baseman Neil Walker) every pitch before that just to make sure how far out I could go and that was one where I just basically said if I get to it there’s no play at first because he beats a lot of those, but I’m keeping a run from scoring.
“I just took that chance.”
Rodriguez has been making plays all over the field in his first season with the Pirates after being acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays in a winter trade. In fact, Walker said he and his teammates have come to expect fielding gems from Rodriguez, regardless of position.
“He’s always ready,” Walker said. “He knows his role on this team, he knows what he’s going to be asked to do and nothing ever surprises him, especially on the defensive end of things. “He knows he’s in there to make plays and to be where he needs to be. He always seems to be where he’s supposed to be.”
–Outfielder Andrew Lambo (plantar fasciitis in his left foot) will rest until mid-August after having an anti-inflammatory injection in his foot over the weekend.
Lambo, who is on the 60-day disabled list, was scheduled to begin a rehab assignment last Friday with the rookie level Gulf Coast League Pirates but the game was rained out and he then felt pain in his foot Saturday. He has been out since May 4.
–Infielder Justin Sellers was outrighted off the 40-man roster last Friday, general manager Neal Huntington said Sunday, though formal announcement of the move was made. Now playing at Class AAA Indianapolis, Sellers began the season on the DL with a sore right Achilles tendon.
–Left fielder Starling Marte went 1-for-3 to run his hitting streak to seven games. He is 13-for-28 (.464) during the streak, raising his batting average to .291.
–Shortstop Jung Ho Kang’s seven-game hitting streak ended as he went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. The rookie went 13-for-27 during the streak.