Eighth inning escape
The Pirates held a 4-2 lead heading in the eighth, before Tony Watson allowed the first four batters to reach base and one run to score. With the lead cut to 4-3, the Phillies had the bases loaded with no outs and somehow failed to score.
"It was ugly, definitely," Watson said. "Things got a little crazy there and I just tried to stay composed and make pitches and get us out of there."
The great escape started with Maikel Franco chopping a soft grounder to Josh Harrison who retired the lead runner. Cody Asche then tapped one in front of the plate that Watson rushed in, scooped and released in time to nip Chase Utley at home. Finally, Freddy Galvis grounded out to Neil Walker to end the threat.
"He's continued to write new chapters in his book since he's been pitching for us out of the bullpen at the major-league level," Clint Hurdle said of Watson. "That is just grit. It's skills, it's good location on top of all that. It shows that determination that he's got to keep the heartbeat slow and make the next good pitch and not let the emotion get involved. It was just excellent."
Melancon shuts down another game
Mark Melancon recorded his 18th consecutive save and posted his 16th shutdown of the season. While his velocity and strikeout numbers continue to linger below career levels, the right-hander is inducing the softest contact, the highest ground ball rate and lowest line drive rate of his time with the Pirates.
"At the end of the day, if you're going to gun-hunt, you're going to gun-hunt," Hurdle said, referring to Melancon's velocity. "If you want to look at execution, and a guy getting outs and a guy putting away games, that's what he's doing."
Cole gets 10th win
Gerrit Cole allowed the leadoff man to get to second base in each of the first four innings, but only surrendered two runs. He pitched clean in the fifth and sixth and earned his 10th win of the season.
"It was a different game for Gerrit, he was pitching out of the stretch a lot today," Hurdle said. "He probably didn't have the command that he's had in the past with his fastball, and his breaking balls maybe didn't have the two-plane tilt. He pitched through some traffic early."
Cole yielded two runs, one earned, over six innings. He struck out seven and didn't allow a walk.
"We played really great defense," Cole said. "The outfielders chased down some really great balls. We spotted some runs early, which allowed me to stay aggressive through the zone to try to find something that was working for us. We started to find a groove towards the middle of the fourth. And then we rolled through the fourth and the fifth."
Cole is only the eighth Pirates pitcher in history to post 10 or more wins in the first 61 games of the season, and the first since 1960. He now leads the league in wins.
"That's a stat that I think all pitcher's care about," Cole said when asked about leading the league. "That is a stat that you don't always have the most control over. I guess the way I look at it is that we've played really, really well as a unit each time I've stepped on the field."
Cole also leads the league with a 1.71 ERA.
More fun for Polanco on the bases
Gregory Polanco continues to be fun (and occasionally frustrating) to watch on the base paths, as he was involved in at least five interesting base running plays today.
After hitting a single in his first plate appearance, Polanco stole second. He advanced to third on a Marte grounder near the middle of the diamond when shortstop Freddy Galvis skipped a ball into his back. Polanco scored a batter later after Carlos Ruiz dropped the throw home on a soft infield grounder to third by McCutchen.
In the fourth, Polanco was thrown out at home on a close play as he tried to score from second on a Marte single. Finally, he was called out on a bang-bang play at first base in the sixth.
"You make them make plays," Hurdle said of Polanco's aggression on the bases. "It's not that easy to make plays up here all the time. We were able to force the issue early a couple times and take advantage of it ... We've got some speed and I've encouraged our guys to use it."
Polanco currently ranks second in Fangraphs all-encompassing base running metric, BSR. He's gained 4.9 runs above average and trails only Billy Hamilton.