Fernandez opened with nothing but gas, touching 99, and blew three past Starling Marte followed by a pair of soft grounders. Cole got a pair of routine outs, then Giancarlo Stanton roped a double to left that kissed the chalkline, pulling a heater inside that ran back over the plate a bit. No prob; Cole spun a backfoot slider to punch out Logan Morrison.
It didn't take the Bucs long to figure out what Fernadez was tossing. Pedro hit a first pitch single to open the second and scored when Russ Martin banged a first pitch double to the wall in left center. He stole third as Garrett Jones K'ed; the third baseman was almost in left field, and though the throw was in time, Ed Lucas wasn't. Gaby rolled out with the infield in, but Clint Barmes softly stroked a first pitch knock to center to make it 2-0. We're a little surprised he saw a strike; Mercer was intentionally walked twice last night when there was a two out chance. Cole worked a quiet frame; his fastball/slider combo is sharp at the outset.
The Marlin pitcher adjusted in the third frame, mixing in plenty of off speed in the second go-around of the Buc order. It cost him a few more pitches, as he went 3-2 twice, but worked, as he struck out the side. Cole kept cruising; he's thrown just 31 pitches, and 25 have been strikes. The Bucs picked up a two out single from Jones in the fourth, but it was sandwiched between a pair of whiffs.
Cole lost the strike zone in the Fish half. After a K, he lost Stanton on borderline, full count call. Lo Mo rolled a single through the right side, followed by a Baltimore chop inside first by Ed Lucas; Gaby was playing well off the line. Both hitters bounced sliders the opposite way after getting ahead in the count. A sac fly, the thing Pirates don't use, by Donovan Solano knotted the score. It was medium depth, but Marte's throw was well off line and cut, making it a new ball game.
Fernandez has been untouchable since he started mixing it up; he struck out the side in the fifth and has tied his career high of 10 whiffs. Cole got back on the bike and put away Miami on six pitches; he's tied his career high with five punchouts, a more modest mark than Jose's but still a step in the right direction.
The Bucs went down in order in the sixth and Fernandez had his strikeout record at 12 and counting. Cole made a mistake to Stanton; Cole's first pitch heater was up and over the inside half and was lined into the fish tank thingie in center to make it 3-2. Gerrit also set his K record with a pair of strikeouts; he's at seven. Martin opened the seventh with a liner to left; a K and 4-6-3 DP cleaned that up; Fernandez is only at 90 pitches, and flummoxed the Bucs this inning by going soft on them. Cole had an easy time of the bottom of the Fish order.
The Bucs went down quietly in the eighth; Marte caught a pitch on the hand during a check swing. He stayed on, and hopefully it won't blow up on him tomorrow. Cole was done after seven. He gave up three runs on four hits with two walks and eight K as he continues to grow into a MLB pitcher. Vin Mazzaro took the ball and tossed a clean frame. As is the norm nowadays, closer Steve Cishek was called on to finish up against the Bucs 2-3-4 hitters. Like Friday night, he made it exciting. Walker singled with an out, and Martin drew a walk with two down. But Jones rolled out to second, and Miami had the win in the books.
The pitching was pretty good both ways, and the Bucs caught the Fish in a hot spell; they've won 5-of-7 and recently took 2-of-3 from the Cards. A five and five road trip is OK, but not the jump out of the gate the club hoped for.
Still, what better way to end the month than with a showdown series against the Cards? It's a throwback set like in the sixties, with five games including a doubleheader. It may not be a weekender, but we'd expect PNC Park to rock on. Francisco Liriano and Jake Westbrook will kick it off tomorrow. And maybe sometime during the set, a bat or two will join the club. Or not; we'll know in 72 hours.
- Gerrit Cole hasn't surrendered more than three runs in any start yet this year, and has gone seven innings three consecutive outings.
- The Pirates have added Tony Sanchez to active roster. But he didn't replace The Fort; Travis Snider went to the 15 day DL with discomfort in left big toe. Guess that's better than forearm discomfort.
- There's no better example of teams with differing development theories than Pittsburgh and Miami; half the Fish lineup would be in High A or maybe AA now rather than the show if they were prospects the Pirate organization.
- On his radio show, GM Neal Huntington sounded as if the Bucs would call up a minor league starter for the second game of Tuesday's twin bill rather than use Jeanmar Gomez or Vin Mazzaro. That makes perfect baseball sense, as it should keep the pen intact for the longer haul. Candidates he mentioned for the nitecap start were Brandon Cumpton and Stolmy Pimentel.
- Matt Sullivan of the Daily Dish believes the current wild card setup will switch the emphasis from deals being made at the July 31st non-waiver deadline to August trades, when the players have to clear waivers before being dealt. So stay tuned...