Gerrit Cole's dominant start and an offensive awakening led the Pirates to an 8-1 victory over the Cubs Wednesday night.
Before we get to those things, though, let's talk about what this game could have been about. Dale Scott's umpiring was awful, and with the way the Pirates have hit lately, it's easy to imagine how all the terrible calls in the Cubs' favor might have been the difference in the game. Scott called a ridiculous number of outside strikes in favor of Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks, even when they were several inches off the plate. Then Cole tried to get strikes in similar spots and was denied. Then Cole came up to hit and Hendricks got those same strikes again. The PiratesUmp Twitter feed (which you should be following if you're on Twitter) tonight is incredibly one-sided. Scott missed 11 straight pitches in favor of the Cubs before finally calling one in the Pirates' favor in the eighth.
Then there was Pedro Alvarez's defense. In the second, Kris Bryant walked, and Alvarez failed to field a pickoff throw ... because the ball went through the webbing of his glove. I'd never seen that before.
Miguel Montero then hit a ground ball toward the gap between first and second, and Alvarez deflected it, preventing Neil Walker from fielding it and resulting in a single and a run. And then Alvarez got hit with another error on a pickoff throw with Montero on first.
That was all in one inning. That's what the game could have been about. But Cole, no doubt fuming over the strike zone, wasn't having any of it. He whiffed three straight batters to end the second, and cruised through four more innings after that, striking out eight while issuing only that one walk.
Meanwhile, the Pirates' offense finally got going. Bucs hitters tied the game on a Jung-Ho Kang RBI single in the fourth, then went ahead when Starling Marte walked (!!!) with the bases full in the fifth. (The fifth might have gotten really exciting for the Bucs if not for a correctly overturned call to end the inning.)
In the sixth, though, the Pirates really broke out against reliever Gonzalez Germen. Chris Stewart hit a one-out double (!!!), Gregory Polanco intentionally walked, and Jordy Mercer brought home a run on a single. Then Andrew McCutchen, whose bat had been dormant for so long, tripled to center to bring home two more. Walker walked, and Marte brought home McCutchen on a single.
Arquimedes Caminero pitched the seventh and looked terrific, and Tony Watson pitched his way in and out of trouble in the eighth. In the ninth, Alvarez and Kang (who went 3-for-4 with a walk) hit back-to-back doubles for another run. (Kang was swinging away on a 3-and-0 pitch, which is awesome.) Then Stewart singled, and Kang came home on a double play. Mark Melancon pitched the ninth and threw 89 MPH junk, but somehow struck out Bryant and Starlin Castro to pitch a scoreless ninth. And that's how the last several innings of this game went -- the Pirates could do no wrong.