LOS ANGELES – The Pirates snapped a nine-game losing streak at Dodger Stadium that dated back to Sept. 16, 2011, on Thursday night, to open their west coast swing with a bang.
Gerrit Cole gave the club a big start in a return to his native California. Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin powered home runs off Dodgers starter Dan Haren, and a seventh inning rally fueled by a Josh Harrison RBI single with two outs earned the Pirates a 6-3 win.
It was perhaps, among the club’s most complete wins of the season.
“Really fun to watch us get out there and play that game tonight,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Cole gave us the big start, momentum off the mound, the energy. Great pace and rhythm tonight for him. Probably the best speed variance he’s had in quite some on the mound from the fastball to changeup. The curveball played extremely well. Everybody fed off it.”
Cole, who starred at nearby UCLA, gave up a run in both the first and second innings before retiring 10 straight. He went 6⅓ innings, giving up six hits, three earned runs and two walks. He struck out three.
Manager Clint Hurdle quickly went to reliever Tony Watson when Cole issued a seventh inning walk. Watson induced a double play to end the inning, then Mark Melancon moved back into his setup role and pitched a perfect eighth inning, downing the No. 2-3-4 batters with a groundout and two strikeouts.
Jason Grilli returned to his role as closer, allowed one hit, but closed out the save.
“I thought we played Pirate baseball to a tee,” Cole said. “We passed the baton on the plate, played (good) defense, threw a lot of strikes, pitched in, and took some punches. It’s about stringing quality games together for us right now. ... It’s about playing our type of baseball.”
The Pirates, losers of two straight in New York, carried the worst road record in baseball (7-16) to the west coast with them.
“We knew when we left New York, everything was left in New York,” Harrison said. “We just basically said, new series. When you’ve got two teams battling back and forth -- we got on the board, they got on the board -- it was going to be a matter of time when somebody got a little more than one more run. We ended up having one big inning and it ended up being the difference maker.”
The Dodgers got on the board quickly.
In the second at-bat of the game, Andrew Ethier tripled down the right field line, then scored on a bloop double by Yasiel Puig that fell in shallow right field between a converging Neil Walker and Josh Harrison.
Alvarez hit his 10th home run of the season in the second inning, to tie the game 1-1. It soared out of the park, an estimated 429 feet.
The Dodgers pulled ahead 2-1 in the second when Dee Gordon singled in Justin Turner, then stole his 31st and 32nd bases of the season. Cole got out of the inning with a swinging strikeout on a changeup.
Clint Barmes singled with one out in the fifth, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Cole and scored on a single by Josh Harrison to tie it 2-2.
Russell Martin homered to left field in the sixth inning to put the Pirates ahead 3-2, but the Dodgers again came right back.
Puig doubled to open the sixth, and scored on a single by Hanley Ramirez to tie it 3-3.
Cole had retired 10 straight batters before Puig’s double, putting the Dodgers down in order in the third, fourth and fifth innings.
“Some at-bats, they were patient, some they were aggressive, especially those quick-pitch innings,” Cole said. “I didn’t expect some of those guys to swing first pitch. We stuck with our approach. That’s Russ (Martin) calling a great game and letting me know where he wants to put the ball. That run in the first? You try to minimize damage.”
Starling Marte was caught stealing in the seventh after a one minute, 36 second review, revealed he did not beat the tag after initially being called safe.
The big seventh inning rally got started when Barmes hit his third single of the night, moved to second on another sacrifice bunt by Cole and scored on a single by Harrison to give the club a 4-3 lead.
Neil Walker drove in Harrison to make it 5-3, and Gaby Sanchez -- pinch-hitting for Ike Davis -- doubled in Walker.
The series gets no easier tonight as right-hander Josh Beckett (3-1, 2.43 ERA) – fresh off a no-hitter – takes the mound against lefty Francisco Liriano (0-5, 5.06 ERA).
Brandon Cumpton (0-1, 3.38 ERA) will face Hyun-jin Ryu (5-2, 3.10 ERA) on Saturday and Edinson Volquez (2-4, 4.30 ERA) takes on RHP Zack Greinke (8-1, 2.18 ERA) on Sunday, which will be aired on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.
Jenn Menendez: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @JennMenendez. First Published May 30, 2014 1:16 AM