The Pirates seemed in a good place. They were coming off a good series against a tough Rays team, they had Gerrit Cole coming off three straight strong starts, and they were facing a struggling Giants team. But they didn’t follow the script. Cole pitched badly; the team’s legion of relievers-who-can’t-get-outs, couldn’t get outs; and the hitters couldn’t come through against a past-his-prime Johnny Cueto. The end result was a dismal, 13-5 defeat.
The first inning produced a lot of action. Cole started off the same way he did his last time out, by serving up a gopher ball to the leadoff hitter. That was a lot more excusable when it was Matt Carpenter than when it was Denard Span. The Pirates, though, jumped on Cueto harder. Singles by Adam Frazier and Josh Harrison, and a walk to Andrew McCutchen, loaded the bases with no out. Cueto helped out by failing to touch first on what should have been a 3-6-1 double play ball hit by Josh Bell. (Bell showed Cueto how to do it in the next inning by keeping his toe in contact with first when he had to make an outstanding diving grab of a bad throw from Harrison.) John Jaso golfed a double off the Clemente Wall, scoring Harrison, and Bell scored on a fly to center by Gregory Polanco.
It became apparent pretty quickly, though, that this wasn’t going to go the way Cole’s last three games did. Every at-bat seemed to be a battle. A walk and two singles produced a run in the third, before Cole ended the inning with two strikeouts. In the fourth, Cole seemed to be headed toward an easy inning, getting the first two hitters quickly with the #8 hitter up. But at that point Cole morphed into Zach Duke and five straight singles followed, including one by the terrible-hitting Cueto. That put the Giants up, 5-3, with Cole’s pitch count at 84.
Cueto was struggling, too, throwing barely over half his pitches for strikes. He also doesn’t seem to have the stuff he did a couple years ago; for one thing, his velocity (if you take into account the difference in readings this year) is down at least two and a half MPH. The Pirates, though, couldn’t take advantage. Their first two hitters reached in the fourth, but they couldn’t even advance the runners. In the fifth, another Jaso double put runners on second and third with one out, but Polanco and Chris Stewart grounded out on either side of a walk to Jordy Mercer.
The game effectively ended in the sixth. Cole left with two on and one out in favor of Antonio Bastardo, who naturally walked the one batter he faced. Jhan Marinez then plunked Hunter Pence with his first pitch to force in a run. Two doubles followed and it was 10-3. Marinez gave up another run in the seventh before giving way to Wade LeBlanc.
The Pirates meanwhile did the fake rally thing in the seventh, getting a couple runs, set up by a double by Bell. McCutchen started the inning with a single and left for a pinch runner, leaving him 2-2 with a walk, a hit batsman and a .283 average, which beats fighting with the Mendoza Line. LeBlanc gave up a HR to make it 12-5; he’s now allowed 13 earned runs in his last 12.2 IP. Edgar Santana gave up another run in the ninth to make it a 13-5 final.