Cole finishes strong on up-and-down night

Cole finishes strong on up-and-down night

CINCINNATI -- Gerrit Cole has pitched better. He certainly has pitched longer. The young righty lasted only the first five innings of the Bucs' 11-inning, 5-4 loss to the Reds on Wednesday night/Thursday morning.

But gutsier? Especially in answer to a threat posed against him in what turned out to be his last inning of work? Unlikely.

Billy Hamilton -- as disconcerting to pitchers as a pesky fly buzzing around someone trying to read a book -- led off the fifth with a single and stole second base with none out.

It was a 3-3 tie in a game in which Cole had already allowed the Reds to take leads of 1-0, 2-1, 3-2.

"I was quite tired of giving up leads," Cole said. "So I was gonna leave it all out there."

At that point, Cole picked up a brush and started painting the corners of home plate. Joey Votto, Todd Frazier or Devin Mesoraco didn't see anything centered. Votto struck out swinging. Frazier and Mesoraco both risked living on the edge, taking close pitches -- the final one to each being called strike three.

"I just took it one pitch at a time," Cole said. "I didn't anticipate striking out the side. My job was just to keep Hamilton from scoring, however that may be.

"I tried to keep him on first as long as I could, then on second as long as I could, then on third as long as I could," added Cole, retracing Hamilton's characteristic tour around the bases on a pair of steals. "Fortunately, we made some pitches when we needed to."

"He had to battle," manager Clint Hurdle said. "His first-pitch strikes were off, yet he got a good number of outs on three pitches or less, so it was a mix. We would've liked to get more length from him, but he gave it everything he had. He probably poured everything he had into finishing that [fifth] inning."

On this occasion, last impressions were most important. Overall, Cole labored for 92 pitches through the five innings, allowing five hits and two walks, with a total of six strikeouts.

"The feeling kind of came and went throughout the game," he said. "Some misfires got me behind counts. I'll look to clean those up, by trying to be more aggressive in the [strike] zone."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.