Gerrit Cole didn't rack up the strikeouts, but instead got a bunch of ground balls from the Marlins, allowing him to maintain a low pitch count most of the night and work into the eighth inning in the Pirates' 2-1 victory.
Cole had four strikeouts, he didn't walk a batter and he ended up allowing five hits in 7 1-3 innings. He induced 11 groundouts versus three fly outs, exiting with just 95 pitches. Aramis Ramirez and Jordy Mercer made a few standout plays in particular, and it was a pretty good night overall for the infield behind Cole.
A complete game was a strong possibility for a while, but Cole conceded a couple hits and a Derek Dietrich sacrifice fly to cut the Bucs' lead to 2-1 in the seventh, then, with a man on second in the eighth, Tony Watson came in to preserve the one-run lead.
J.T. Realmuto led off the bottom of the eighth and worked a nine-pitch at-bat for what was eventually ruled a single on a misplay by defensive replacement Sean Rodriguez at first base. After a sacrifice bunt, Hurdle lifted Cole for Watson, who struck out Dee Gordon and got a groundout from Ichiro Suzuki.
Mark Melancon gave up a leadoff single, but got a double play and got through a scoreless ninth for his 41st save, if you're into those things. (Speaking of which, Cole got win No. 15.)
The Pirates' two runs off Justin Nicolino proved to be enough. Francisco Cervelli led off the second with a triple to deep center field and scored on Neil Walker's sacrifice fly.
Pedro Alvarez blasted one of his more impressive home runs in the fourth, a solo shot (off a lefty) over the 418 marker in center field. This came a day after it was reported the Marlins may move the walls in at their mammoth ballpark over the offseason, and in the same week in which we've marveled at guys hitting balls to the warning track short of that wall.
Cervelli was ejected by home-plate umpire Alan Porter in the bottom of the third after Cervelli stood up and turned around to argue balls and strikes in the middle of a Marlins at-bat. That was likely spurred by Cervelli's at-bat in the top of the inning, in which he may have been squeezed. It seemed like the ejection was about 50 percent umpshow, 50 percent high-strung catcher.
Jung-Ho Kang got another night off, which isn't the best thing to do, but Ramirez and Mercer were pretty good in his place. I was reminded on Twitter earlier in the day of the shorter seasons in Korea, so maybe it's not the worst thing to get Kang more of a breather than you'd expect for the best hitter in the Pirates' infield rotation. Josh Harrison came in as a defensive replacement, also. After what we've seen most of the year, it's a pretty nice luxury to go into the late innings with actual options off the bench.