Buccos Ride the Cole Train; Offense Has Big Fifth-Inning

The Pirates (47-34) won the rubber match of a 3-game set with Cleveland on a beautiful Sunday afternoon at PNC Park with a score of 5-3. The day was highlighted by a 5-run 5th inning offensive explosion that was enough to sustain a lead until the final out was recorded. Gerrit Cole captured his league-leading 12th win on the afternoon, pitching eight strong innings and Mark Melancon recorded his 27th save of the year. PNC Park was the place to be this weekend as the ballpark had a combined attendance of 113,580 fans over the 3-game weekend series.

Gerrit Cole (12-3, 2.28 ERA) struggled early in the game, allowing 3 earned runs in the first 3 innings. He settled down after the Michael Brantley RBI-single in the 3rd inning, retiring the final 16 batters he faced. The line on Cole was 8 innings, 5 hits, 3 ER, 5 strikeouts, and 1 walk on 106 pitches. Cole’s ability to bounce back from a rough start has shown why he has been one of the most successful pitchers in the Major Leagues, and possibly furthering his cause to make the National League All-Star team.

The offense had Cole’s back again, scoring all 5 runs in the game in the bottom of the 5th inning. Jung Ho Kang led off with a single, then Pedro Alvarez put one in the seats near the north side notch in left-center field, his 12th home run on the year. Jordy Mercer flew out, Chris Stewart reached on an infield hit that was overturned by a Pirates challenge, Gerrit Cole moved Stewart to 2nd base on a sacrifice bunt, then Josh Harrison reached on an infield single of his own. Neil Walker tied the game on an RBI-single, then on the very next pitch. Andrew McCutchen nearly hit one in the Cleveland bullpen in center field. It bounced off the wall and two more runs came across to give the Pirates the 5-3 lead they would hold on to.

Mark Melancon continues to dominate as the closer, notching his NL-leading 27th save. After blowing his 2nd save opportunity early in the year, he has recorded 26 straight saves, putting his name as a candidate for the NL All-Star team. Melancon’s consistency has played a large role in the Pirates’ success this season.

PIRATES NOTES
Cutch misses out: 
The National League All-Star starters were announced Sunday night and Andrew McCutchen was left off of the starting roster. He finished 5th in the voting for the outfield spots, behind starters Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, Matt Holliday, and 4th place Nori Aoki. There’s a very good chance he can make it as a reserve, maybe even as a starter due to the injuries to Stanton and Holliday. Stanton is definitely out, but Matt Holliday could possibly be ready to play in the game. Only time will tell. The reserves, pitchers, and Final Vote candidates will be announced tomorrow evening at 7 p.m.

Welcome back Travis!: No, not Travis Snider, but Travis Ishikawa. The Pirates claimed the 31 year-old first-baseman off waivers from the Giants on Sunday afternoon. No roster move has been made yet to make room for Ishikawa, but that should be happening before the Buccos’ next game.

Marte leaves early: Starling Marte left Sunday’s game after fouling off a pitch in the 4th inning. He swung and missed at two pitches in the at-bat, showing some discomfort in his side afterward. Manager Clint Hurdle and a trainer came out and had a chat, but left him in the game. He then fouled off a pitch then took a ball while still showing discomfort, prompting Hurdle to pull Marte from the game. Gregory Polanco finished the game in Marte’s spot. Marte will be evaluated tomorrow.

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