Through 4 1/2 innings, this one wasn't too good. Besides Starling Marte leaving with an injury, Indians starter Danny Salazar had a 3-0 lead and was dealing, with seven strikeouts and just one hit against to that point.
Watching at the ballpark, I settled in to enjoy what I could of a nice day when the Pirates offense just couldn't touch a strong pitcher.
The offense came alive quickly in the fifth, though, and scored five runs in the inning for a 5-3 win over Cleveland in the rubber match with the Indians.
Jung-Ho Kang started the fifth with a single and Pedro Alvarez smashed a two-run home run over the North Side Notch area. After a Jordy Mercer flyout, Clint Hurdle challenged Chris Stewart's groundout, and it was a smart decision, even with a likely out in Gerrit Cole on deck. The umpires ruled in favor of the Pirates, giving Stewart an infield single, Cole sacrificed Stewart to second and, with two outs, the Pirates knocked three straight hits to take the lead. Josh Harrison also reached on an infield single. Neil Walker singled to plate Stewart with the tying run. Then Andrew McCutchen doubled off the center field wall, scoring Harrison and Walker, and Salazar's day was done and the Pirates had a 5-3 lead that would stand thanks to a great outing from Cole.
Cole fought through the early going, surviving to toss eight innings with five strikeouts, one walk and the three runs on five hits. It was the second straight eight-inning outing by a Pirates starter, this one not as surprising as Jeff Locke's shutdown performance on Saturday.
Mark Melancon hit Carlos Santana with a pitch, but shut the door in the ninth.
Stewart was the only Pirate with multiple hits, going 2-for-4.
The Indians took the early 3-0 lead with two runs off Cole in the second and one in the third. Santana singled and reached third with two outs in the second. He scored when Michael Bourn singled just out of the reach of Alvarez. Bourn stole second and took third when Stewart's throw went into center field, and he took home on backup catcher Roberto Perez's single. Jason Kipnis led off the third with a double, and he scored on Michael Brantley's single.
The win felt particularly pleasant, quickly shifting from a possible series loss to an underachieving team to a solid series win from some tough pitchers in the span of a couple innings.
Marte hurt himself on a swing in the fourth. It looked like he tweaked something in his side; he stayed in for a couple more pitches before being lifted for Gregory Polanco. The Pirates confirmed it was an issue with Marte's side. Here's hoping it's the sort of thing that leaves Starling day-to-day rather than week-to-week, particularly with the Cardinals coming to town next weekend.
Starling Marte left the game due to discomfort in his left side. His status will be re-evaluated tomorrow— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) July 5, 2015