Phils hand Cole first MLB defeat, 6-4

USA TODAY Sports

A flurry of hits off Gerrit Cole and Vin Mazzaro, combined with sputtering Pirate bats, led to Cole's first major league loss

A barrage of singles from the normally power-oriented Phillies were more than Cole and the Pirates could overcome. The first inning set the tone, as Cole gave up singles to two of the first three hitters, Ben Revere and Jimmy Rollins. Fortunately, Russell Martin -- who appears to be more than just a minor defensive improvement over Rod Barajas -- cut down both runners stealing. Cole gave up two more singles and a double in the next two innings, but took no damage.

The Pirates, meanwhile, weren't exactly hammering the struggling Cole Hamels, who came in with a 2-11, 4.58 line. The Pirates seemingly had a chance to get some offense going in this series, since they missed the Phillies' ace, Cliff Lee. Facing Hamels and two mediocrities, the Pirates' hitters mostly floundered throughout the series except for one big inning yesterday. Hamels allowed just five hits, walked none, and fanned eight in seven innings. The Pirates broke through only in the third when Starling Marte and Jose Tabata -- who went 2-3 -- managed groundball hits, moved up to second and third on an error, and scored on a single by Andrew McCutchen.

Cole gave back one run on a single, sacrifice and another single in the fifth. Things then came unglued in the sixth, one of those aggravating innings where nobody is getting bombed, but the inning just won't end. Cole struck out Rollins, but then gave up a walk and a single. Mazzaro came on, but couldn't repeat his magic from the Brewers series, as he failed to retire any of the four batters he faced. He allowed three straight singles and then plunked Hamels. That resulted in three runs, two charged to Cole. Tony Watson relieved Mazzaro and got a forceout that brought in another one. The Phils later tacked one on in the eighth against Ryan Reid to take a 6-2 lead.

The Pirates rallied for two in the bottom of the eighth against journeyman reliever Justin De Fratus. Singles to start the inning by Jordy Mercer, Marte and pinch hitter Garrett Jones brought in one run. Unfortunately, McCutchen hit into a double play, which brought in a run but cut short the rally. The inning marked the continuation of Clint Hurdle's strange habit of using his few useful bench bats to pinch hit for players who aren't bad hitters themselves, in this case Tabata, who has no career platoon split at all. Jones might better have been used to hit for Gaby Sanchez, who made the last out of the inning against the right-handed reliever and who has a significant platoon split. It's also notable that Mercer was in the game as a substitute, with Clint Barmes starting at short for the second time in four games. It seems Hurdle may not be quite ready to anoint Mercer as the everyday shortstop. In any event, the Pirates managed only a Pedro Alvarez single off Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth.

Cole's outing was far from discouraging, even though he allowed eight hits in five and a third innings. He fanned five, which hopefully will continue quieting the panic over his initially low K totals, and he threw strikes, 53 of them in 78 pitches. He also got five groundouts to no fly outs, so there's that.

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