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Postgame: Gerrit Cole dominates, Josh Harrison walks Pirates off

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pirates won a pitcher's duel Saturday night, 2-1. Starters Gerrit Cole and Matt Garza combined for 14 innings, 12 strikeouts and only two runs allowed. Felipe Rivero and Tony Watson contributed three additional innings of scoreless relief for the Pirates, and Josh Harrison hit a game-winning single in the bottom of the tenth to give the team its second win a row.

"We'll take it and move on," Clint Hurdle said. "We know we have work to do. We have to find ways to get better and more consistent."

Another quality start for Cole

Gerrit Cole was outstanding Saturday night. He blew through a dominating seven innings, allowing only one run and striking out eight. Over his last five starts, Cole hasn't gone fewer than six innings deep, nor allowed more than two earned runs.

"He had a lot of good stuff going on [tonight]," Hurdle said of Cole's start. "He mixed his pitches extremely well. He retired 10 hitters on three pitches or less. He was extremely sharp tonight. Really good to see him compete and continue to stay in control of the things he was in control of."

Cole's mound presence was something to see. A relaxed, controlled demeanor never comes naturally to him. He always reminds one of a pot of water on the fringes of a boil. When he starts to spray the ball, he'll stalk, sulk and walk around the mound heavy footed. But when he is locked-in, his presence is lighter. A rhythm and a calm sets in that doesn't necessarily come to him easily. He always keeps the pitcher's plate immaculately clean with a few wipes of his feet before he loads up for the next pitch. When everything is working the ritual appears much quieter than the loud internal dialogue that seems to accompany it during the tough outings. Saturday, he occupied a comfortable zone and it leapt off the mound both in results and process.

Cole continues to feature his changeup more often this season and it was tremendous tonight, especially the second time through the order.

"We were just able to locate it and sprinkle it in situations that ended up being advantageous for us," Cole said of his changeup.

The right-hander has now posted six straight quality starts and he notched his second Bill James' gem of the season. Cole is looking about as good as we've ever seen him right now.

"I'm just executing," Cole said. "Feeling good. Good game plan with Frankie [Cervelli]. It was actually nice to start the year with all day games for a while because I threw day games for like two months, so it was great. Now we're in night games and it's been simpler to get into a rhythm."

Game winner

Josh Harrison once again provided the spark the Pirates needed when they most needed it. With Gift Ngoepe on third and one out, Harrison lined the first pitch he saw over Brewers right fielder, Domingo Santana's, head for a game-winning single.

"He's got an energy you can't really match," Cole said. "He's very unique, so you're never surprised when he comes up in big situations for us."

It is Harrison's seventh career walk-off RBI. For the season, he is posting a solid .298/.368/.490.

"Any time your presented with the opportunity and are able to come through for your teammates, it's exciting," Harrison said. "I love [those situations]. That's a situation, as young kid you see the walk-offs, so when you get a chance to it, it's always exciting."

Taillon [non] update

Hurdle said that Taillon will be evaluated and that the team would have more information later in the week.

Improbability

In the last year or so we've become used to the improbable. The city of Cleveland has a championship, and the Cavaliers won it after trailing three games to one. Ditto for the Cubs. How about that Super Bowl? And, of course, the Presidential election which... Anyway, the point is that somewhere along the line things have gotten wacky and improbable events just keep happening over and over again.

Tonight at PNC Park the Pirates contributed, in their own small way, to the spirit of times. Somehow they failed to score in the second inning after hitting back-to-back, one out, doubles. In the sixth, they doubled down on improbability by loading the bases with no outs and, again, did not score. The odds of not scoring in either situation is quite low. The odds of not scoring in either, and both of them occurring in the same game, are mind-boggling.

The failure to score on the back-to-back doubles was the result of, first, Francisco Cervelli, who hit the first double, only  making it to third on John Jaso's hit. With runners on second and third and one out, Jordy Mercer laced a liner into left which was caught by Nick Franklin. Jaso, inexplicably, was rounding third when the ball was caught and was easily forced out at second.

The bases loaded misfire was due to Andrew McCutchen hitting a weak ground ball to third, which resulted in a double play. And then Gregory Polanco grounded out to end the inning.

"We put ourselves in a hard place," Hurdle said. "There two innings and two opportunities to score runs and we didn't do it. Nobody is a fan of bad baseball."

On the baserunning mistakes in the second, Hurdle said that Cervelli didn't move far enough down the line on the drive into the gap and Jaso followed by making a bad read on where the left-fielder was positioned.

"We hit a ball off the wall and put a ball into the notch and don't score a run, so that's not good." Hurdle said. "Later on, with the bases loaded, we didn't do a very good job of firing and getting some things done to score some runs."

So, the Pirates survived some offensive blunders and held on to win their second game in a row.  They improved their record to 14-16 and go for the sweep tomorrow with Tyler Glasnow receiving the start.