It’s still yet to be determined whether or not Gerrit Cole will play a big role down the stretch for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but Tuesday night he made a statement that maybe he should.
Cole tossed seven innings of two-hit ball, allowing only one run while striking out four in the Pirates’ 5-1 victory over the Washington Nationals, the third straight victory for the Bucs after dropping their first two games after the all-star break.
It was a needed win for the former No. 1 overall pick as Cole (5-3) came into the game dropping three consecutive decisions after beginning his career 4-0.
And similar to the way he made his major-league debut, he helped himself with the bat as well.
The Pirates took an early lead when they struck for three runs in the second inning.
The Bucs loaded the bases with no outs after back-to-back singles by Pedro Alvarez and Russell martin and a walk to Garrett Jones. Neil Walker and Jordy Mercer followed with ground balls that each brought in a run to put the Bucs up 2-0. The Nationals botched what should have been an inning ending double play ball, which not only cost them a run, but it also brought Cole to the plate.
Cole entered the game having shown the ability to handle the bat and he came through with the first of two hits on the night to make it a 3-0 game.
That turned out to be more than enough offense for Cole, who was in a good groove all night long.
After a Wilson Ramos solo homer in the third cut the Pirates lead to 3-1, Cole retired 15 of the next 16 Nationals hitters, issuing only a walk to Ian Desmond in the fifth.
The Bucs did add some insurance in the eighth off of Nationals starter Taylor Jordan (0-3).
Alvarez led off the inning with an opposite field solo shot, his 25th of the season, to make it 4-1 and after martin singled and stole second, Gaby Sanchez delivered a pinch-hit double to extend the Bucs lead to 5-1.
Bryan Morris pitched the eighth and Mark Melancon got a taste of his new ninth inning role, tossing a perfect final frame.
Overall it was a real nice win for the Bucs, who played a pretty complete game.
They hit well, clubbing out 10 hits on the night; pitched well by allowing only three hits; and played some spectacular defense as Cole was helped out with some spectacular glove work from the likes of Mercer and Starling Marte.
The Pirates will look to make it four wins in a row tomorrow night in the nation’s capital as Francisco Liriano (9-4) takes to the hill and will oppose Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg (5-7). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.