Gerrit Cole struck out nine and walked none, the Pirates got a couple homers finally facing a non-Cy Young-caliber pitcher and they held on to beat the Dodgers, 4-3, to take their fifth straight series from Los Angeles.
Starting in 97 degree heat, Cole struck out five in the first two innings, but allowed two runs in that span, too, and the teams traded single runs in the early going.
Carl Crawford led off the bottom of the first with a triple on a fly ball to a similar spot to where Gregory Polanco made an excellent catch on Saturday. Polanco was a little short this time and the ball bounced away. Cole responded with strikeouts of Chase Utley and Corey Seager, but Andre Ethier singled home the game's first run.
Dodgers' starter Mike Bolsinger knocked down a Cole comebacker, but tossed it away, allowing a hustling Francisco Cervelli to score from second, and the Pirates tied it at 1 in the top of the second. Joc Pederson singled, stole second and scored on Alex Guerrero's single to put Los Angeles back ahead, 2-1, in the bottom of the inning, but Cole threw up four straight zeroes after that as the Pirates took the lead.
Starling Marte led off the third with a no-doubt homer halfway up the bleachers in left-center to tie the score at 2. Pedro Alvarez hit a homer only slightly less impressive to right-center in the fourth. In the fifth Aramis Ramirez singled through the left side of the infield to score Andrew McCutchen to open up a 4-2 lead.
A Scott Van Slyke homer pulled the Dodgers within 4-3 in the seventh, Cole's final inning, but Tony Watson and Mark Melancon did not allow a baserunner in the eighth or ninth, sending the Pirates on their way. (Marte got caught between third and home on Harrison's infield single in the ninth, scuttling a Pirates threat, but Melancon got him off the hook.)
The Pirates finished 5-1 against the Dodgers in the regular season and improved to 23-6 against the National League West Division. These breakdowns make me rue all the losses to the Brewers and Reds even more, but today is a day for happiness. The Pirates head to Colorado with a chance (and, with dates against the Cubs and Cardinals looming, some pressure) to make some hay.
The Cardinals beat the Cubs, 4-3, in a game that unfortunately did not last 73 innings, leaving the Pirates four back of the former and two ahead of the latter.