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Gerrit Cole (almost) singlehandedly beats Reds, 1-0

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MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Cincinnati Reds Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t a game that looked promising. The slumping Pirates were starting Gerrit Cole, who had never beaten the Reds, who’s had a growing problem with gopher, and who’d be facing one of the game’s more powerful lineups in the Great American Homerunpark. Even worse, the Pirates were facing the one good (or even mediocre, for that matter) starter on a team whose starters have carved up their weak-hitting lineup all year. Cole, however, took matters into his own hands, throwing seven shutout innings and providing the Pirates’ only offense with his first HR of the year, giving the Pirates a 1-0 win.

The Reds imposing lineup seldom managed to challenge Cole. They had leadoff singles in the fourth and seventh, but the first went nowhere and the second was eliminated on a double play. Other than that, they had a pair of two-out singles in the fifth and a one-out squibber in the sixth. No extra-base hits. In fact, all of the singles except the last one were ground balls. Cole also didn’t walk anybody, threw 70 of his 100 pitches for strikes, and fanned six.

The Pirates’ hitters, however, were mostly blown away by rookie Luis Castillo, who came armed with a mid- to upper-90s fastball. He fanned nine and gave up just three hits and a walk in seven innings. The top three hitters in the lineup — Starling Marte, Josh Harrison and the now-slumping-again Andrew McCutchen — combined to go 0-for-12 with five strikeouts. The best chance for a run came in the fourth, when Josh Bell doubled with two outs and David Freese singled, but Bell was thrown out at the plate (and, no, it wasn’t a TOOTBLAN, it was the right thing to do) on a fairly good throw by Adam Duvall.

That was about all that could be said of the Pirates’ offense, except for one swing of the bat by Cole. On the first pitch of the sixth inning, he lined a fastball into the seats in left. It was his third career HR, the first two coming in 2014 and 2016.

With Cole up to 100 pitches and a runner on second, Clint Hurdle sent Jose Osuna up to pinch hit in the top of the eighth. That left it up to Juan Nicasio and Felipe Rivero to finish it up. They did so without allowing a baserunner. Rivero did his Nightmare thing, fanning the side, including Joey Votto.

Tomorrow the Pirates get a chance to do the unthinkable and win a series from the Reds. They’ll be facing Tyler Mahle, who’ll be making his major league debut in place of Homer Bailey.