By Rob Biertempfel/The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Sooner or later, Gerrit Cole was bound to find a way to beat the Cincinnati Reds.
Even if he had to do it all himself.
On Saturday, Cole tossed seven shutout innings and smacked a solo home run as the Pirates beat the Reds, 1-0.
“It doesn’t happen very often,” Cole said of his homer. “It’s fun to be in the box and hear the sound of the ball off the bat. It’s cool.”
Until Saturday, the Reds had tormented Cole. His first nine starts against them produced zero wins, six losses and a 5.14 ERA.
However, Cole went into the game having won seven of his past eight starts on the road.
Something had to give, right?
The question seemed to confuse manager Clint Hurdle.
“I’m not sure what you mean by, ‘Does something have to give?’ “ Hurdle said before the game. “Do you mean Cole’s going to dominate tonight? Because that’s what I’ve got. That’s what I’m hoping for.”
Cole did not disappoint. He scattered five hits, walked none and struck out six. Joey Votto and Adam Duvall, the Reds’ two best hitters, went a combined 0 for 6 with three strikeouts against Cole.
“When something like this happens, you jokingly say he Little Leagued them,” Hurdle said. “He shut them out and hit a homer. An impressive night for Cole, and we played some impressive defense behind him.”
Scooter Gennett began the seventh by smashing a liner off the right-field wall. Adam Frazier played the ball on the carom and held Gennett to a long single.
“I knew I wasn’t getting to it, so I got into position right away,” Frazier said. “It felt like it took a few seconds for it to come down.”
As Gennett went back to first base, Cole turned tipped his cap toward right field. Frazier’s play loomed large two pitches later, when Eugenio Suarez grounded into a double play.
“That was awesome. Made me feel pretty good,” Frazier said. “A big play for Gerrit, just what we needed in that situation.”
Domination was Cole’s only option because Reds rookie Luis Castillo was superb. Over seven innings, Castillo yielded three hits and amassed a career-high nine strikeouts.
With a fastball that touches 100 mph, plus a quality changeup and slider, Castillo produced quality starts in seven of his past 10 outings.
Castillo held the Pirates hitless until the fourth, when Josh Bell lined a two-out double into the right-field corner. David Freese bounced a single to left.
Adam Duvall’s throw was slightly up the first-base line, but catcher Tucker Barnhart made a lunging tag to get Bell. Duvall has 13 outfield assists, the most in the majors.
Through five innings, the Pirates had hit just three fair balls out of the infield. Castillo’s first pitch of the sixth was a 95 mph four-seamer, and Cole jacked it over the left-field wall. It was his third career homer, and it gave the Pirates a 1-0 edge.
“That guy (Castillo) was pretty nasty,” Frazier said. “So for Gerrit to be able to do it, we were pretty excited.”
According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Reds had not lost 1-0 on a homer by the opposing pitcher since June 17, 1983, when Bob Welch of the Los Angeles Dodgers went deep off Mario Soto.
“Honestly, I was just trying not to get sawed off,” Cole said. “Typically, we take in those situations, but I don’t know. Anytime you put the bat on the ball, something good can happen. I knew he threw hard, so I was just trying to put it in play.”
Because it’s “players weekend,” Cole used a special red, white and blue Old Hickory bat. Will he lobby to keep using it when the uniform and equipment rules are tightened again this week?
“No, I think I’m just going to retire it on top,” Cole said, grinning.
Castillo retired the next six batters before turning the game over to his bullpen. The Pirates put a runner at third base with two outs in the eighth, but Wandy Peralta whiffed Starling Marte to end the threat.
The Pirates’ bullpen was short-handed, as Daniel Hudson and Steven Brault were unavailable because of their recent workloads. Juan Nicasio tossed a 1-2-3 eighth inning, and Felipe Rivero struck out the side in the ninth for his 15th save.
Milwaukee 3 LA DODGERS 0
ARIZONA 2 San Francisco 1
CLEVELAND 4 Kansas City 0
ST. LOUIS 6 Tampa Bay 4
Colorado 7 ATLANTA 6
Detroit 6 CHICAGO WHITE SOX 3
MIAMI 2 San Diego 1 (11 innings)
Chicago Cubs 17 PHILADELPHIA 2
Pittsburgh 1 CINCINNATI 0
Baltimore 7 BOSTON 0
WASHINGTON 9 NY Mets 4
OAKLAND 8 Texas 3
TORONTO 10 Minnesota 9
NY YANKEES 6 Seattle 3
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