Marte in the middle of it all
Starling Marte didn't think he deserved the attention he was receiving after the game. As he finished dressing, and before the television cameras turned on, Marte was telling everybody in earshot, "I didn't win the game. [Jung-Ho] Kang did. Kang won the game. He had two home runs."
Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco weren't having it, though. From their lockers 20 feet away, they started doing their own mock interviews by imitating Marte's tone, cadence and accent, while throwing out cliches like "I just hit it and it went over the wall," "I tried to see the pitch and hit it good," and so on. Marte enjoyed the ribbing.
On an evening in which Gerrit Cole pitched a gem and Kang blasted two solo home runs, Marte still ended up the story of the game as he managed to save a run, score the game-winning run and give away a potential run.
In the second, Brandon Crawford drove a fly ball to the left field wall that Marte raced back and nabbed just before it could drop into the second row.
"I've been working hard this year to make a play like that and I get better every day," Marte said. "I'm still working on it."
Gerrit Cole appreciated that Marte stole a home run from his future brother-in-law. Asked if the catch might come up during a wedding toast, the right-hander laughed and was momentarily at a loss for words.
"Yeah, It'll probably come up a few more times," Cole said. "That was a good one to rob. He picked a good one."
Marte gave away a potential run in the seventh with an ill-advised premature break for third on stolen base attempt. Hunter Strickland calmly stepped off the rubber and threw him out.
"He's an exciting player," Clint Hurdle said. "Sometimes he tries to make things happen. He thought he saw a breaking ball called and he thought he had saw a routine that the pitcher had fallen into and it didn't work."
After the Giants tied the game in the top of the eighth, Marte hit a game-winning home run deep into the left field bleachers on a first pitch cutter that was left inside.
"I was looking for a fastball away, with the game tight that's what most pitchers do," Marte said. "[But] he threw a cutter inside and I drove the pitch."
Kang cleaning up
Over the past three seasons, the Pirates have posted .721 OPS from the cleanup spot in the order, which ranks 28th in baseball. On the heels of Jung-Ho Kang's two-homer performance, they may have found a way to upgrade production from the four-hole.
"It'll probably present some opportunities for him to [bat fourth]," Hurdle said. "We've done it in the past. So, in absence of [Aramis] Ramirez, I think he'd definitely be a guy we'd need to look to."
Since July 7, Kang is batting .335/.408/.608.
"I'm going to do my best to take it to another level," Kang said. "I don't know how, but I'm working hard to take it to another level."
Cole pitches a gem
Gerrit Cole relied on his defense early and a wipeout slider later to avoid any damage beyond the one run he allowed through seven innings. He gave up three hits and stuck out eight.
"His entire body of work was better [than we've seen recently]," Hurdle said. "Improvements across the board: the fastball command, the four pitch mix. He was able to reach in his pocket and pull something out late."
Marte's catch wasn't the only defensive help Cole received. McCutchen ran down a drive to deep right-center to end the second. And in the fourth, Neil Walker ran in and barehanded a slow ground ball and threw out Marlon Byrd to end the fourth.
"We played hardball today," Cole said. "We played great defense. Marte, obviously made an excellent catch. ...Same thing with 'Cutch, he made a good catch in the right-center gap. A couple snags by the infielders were great."
Cole relied on a sharp slider most of the afternoon and in the sixth it extracted him from a first-and-third, one-out situation. Both Byrd and Crawford went down swinging on breaking balls that flirted with the strike zone before snapping out of range.
"The spin really complemented the fastball," Hurdle said. "A really good step back for him into the right lane."
With the score tied a 1-1 in the seventh, Cole was again facing a scoring threat, as Giants had a man on third and one out. But a sharp line out to second and a ground out to first, which Pedro Alvarez ranged over to grab and then tossed to Cole (and which had most of PNC Park holding its collective breath) ended the inning.
"We were up against the wall and had to make some pitches," Cole said. "Fortunately we were able to make some pitches."
Stewart's long day
Chris Stewart had a tough day defensively behind the plate. The Giants stole three bases and advanced on two wild pitches -- the second leading to a game-tying run int he eighth. Stewart also committed a throwing error, which allowed a runner to advance to third and led to an unearned run.