Cole tosses six strong innings in win
Avoiding a series sweep on the road, the Pittsburgh Pirates took down the upstart Chicago Cubs in the finale at Wrigley Field on Wednesday night by an 8-1 final behind another very strong start from right-hander Gerrit Cole.
Cole, who lowered his earned run average on the year to an outstanding 1.76, turned in six innings of work, allowing just one unearned run on three hits, while striking out eight and walking one.
Pittsburgh broke things open in the top of the sixth with a four-run frame against Cubs’ right-hander Gonzalez Germen. After setting down Jung-ho Kang on strikes, Chris Stewart got things rolling with a double. Cole struck out swinging and it looked like the game would remain close, but the Bucs got the two-out magic rolling from there on out.
After Germen intentionally walked Gregory Polanco, Jordy Mercer singled to score Stewart and move Polanco to third before advancing to second himself on the throw. The ice-cold Andrew McCutchen followed with a two-run triple to center field that was just out of the reach of Chicago center-fielder Dexter Fowler, making it 6-1 Pittsburgh.
The Pirates added two more in the ninth thanks, in part, to a Kang double to make the final 8-1 Pittsburgh.
Sophomore right-hander Kyle Hendricks opposed Cole and was saddled with the loss on Wednesday, allowing two earned runs on five hits in five innings of work. The soft-tossing righty struck out six and walked three for Joe Maddon’s club – which has lost just one series in the month of April.
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The Cubs scored first, in the bottom of the second, when Miguel Montero singled to score Kris Bryant, making it 1-0 Chicago. However, that would be the last tally of the night for the hometown team, which was outscored 8-0 from then-on.
Montero was the only Cubs player to record multiple base hits against Pittsburgh pitching on Wednesday, while Mercer, McCutchen and Kang all had two hits apiece for the Pirates. McCutchen and Starling Marte also drove in a pair of runs to pace the offense.
What Stood Out:
Once again, Cole was lights-out for the Pirates and he stepped up when the club needed him to avoid a three-game sweep to a division-rival team.
While many are still skeptical of his abilities to emerge as an ace, he certainly pitched like one in Wednesday’s finale – and if he keeps it up, he’ll be a major difference-maker for the Pirates down the stretch this season.
Pittsburgh will head to St. Louis on Friday for a weekend tilt with the Cardinals, who still hold first place in the division, despite losing ace Adam Wainwright to injury for the year.
A.J. Burnett will take the ball for the Pittsburgh Pirates in Friday night’s opener, while the Cardinals’ starter has not yet been announced. First pitch is slated for 7:15 p.m. CT at Busch Stadium.