CHICAGO -- Gerrit Cole picked up his Major League-best 11th victory, Mark Melancon picked up his 21st save in a row and the Pirates won for the eighth straight time with a 3-2 victory over the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field Thursday night. The White Sox lost their season-worst seventh straight and suffered their third straight series sweep. They sit at a low-water mark of 28-37.
"It's a testament to how well we've played as a team around me," Cole said of becoming the Majors' top winner. "I always go out there to give us a chance to win, but that's a team accomplishment."
The White Sox had actually tied the game at 2 off of Cole courtesy of Geovany Soto's two-out homer in the seventh, but the Pirates pushed back in front in the eighth. Jung Ho Kang reached on an infield hit with one out against reliever Jake Petricka and moved to third on Pedro Alvarez's single to center off of reliever Zach Duke. Gregory Polanco followed with a grounder to second baseman Gordon Beckham, but Beckham had to settle for the out at first with the run scoring.
"We got a great push off the mound from Cole," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He battled throughout the outing. Ge gives up that home run where he's one pitch from being done, but that's baseball. Our guys had the wherewithal to pick him up, scratch one back in the eighth."
Soto's blast was the first off of Pirates' pitching in 76 innings. Cole allowed two runs on three hits over seven, striking out four and walking three. The Pirates claimed their seventh win in the past 11 games where they scored three or fewer runs.
Jeff Samardzija pitched well enough to win for the White Sox but received little support. He allowed 10 hits over seven innings and 114 pitches, but struck out seven and didn't issue a walk. But the White Sox offense was limited to four hits or less for the fourth straight game.
"Yeah, it was a battle out there," said Samardzija, who threw 114 pitches. "I wanted to come out there and have a good strong outing and give our team a chance to win. Unfortunately it didn't turn out that way but we fought out there, played tough and we were going against a pretty darn good pitcher there in Cole, who is in his prime. He looks really good."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Once is enough: After getting a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth, Cole gave it back in the bottom of the inning. Given another one-run edge in the fifth, the obstinate righty wasn't about to again squander it. Eleven pitches later -- strikeouts of Conor Gillaspie and Beckham wrapped around Soto's groundout -- he was back in the dugout. Those were half of the game's total strikeouts for Cole, who otherwise depended on solid defense.
"There was a iot of contact tonight. I didn't have a lot of strikeouts, so we played good 'D,'" Cole said.
Shark attack: Samardzija should have been out of the seventh on just eight pitches, but Corey Hart's routine popup fell between shortstop Alexei Ramirez and center fielder Adam Eaton for a one-out single. Samardzija eventually faced Starling Marte with runners on first and second but struck him out to end the inning. He fanned Marte with two on to end the fifth as well.
"He threw the ball phenomenal today," said Soto of Samardzija.
Manufacturer's guarantee: The White Sox earned their first run scored off of Cole in the fourth. Jose Abreu opened the frame with a bloop double and moved to third on Adam LaRoche's long fly ball to center field. Melky Cabrera followed with a sacrifice fly to right, as Abreu beat the throw home by a few feet. The White Sox have scored in just three innings of the last 43 played.
You can count on Arquimedes: Hurdle's confidence in Arquimedes Caminero has grown with each of the hard-throwing right-hander's outings -- and that faith was put on display when Caminero entered the eighth inning of a one-run game. Three quick outs rewarded that confidence and protected the Bucs' lead. More >
"We got some fortuitous hits. That one inning [the decisive eighth], I don't think we squared up a ball, but found some grass. We work counts, and those things have a tendency to work your way" -- Hurdle, on a soft, 13-hit attack that made four Chicago pitchers work through 153 pitchesMore >
"We have to get going. It's no longer an early part of the season. It's starting to be buckle down time when we need to put together a string of good games and it has to be sooner than later before the trade deadline starts creeping up on us. If we're not playing the game we need to play, our friends are going to start leaving. We have a good club that needs to start pushing the right buttons and play a better brand of baseball." -- Eaton on the White Sox continued struggles
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Marte was credited with a stolen base in the first inning of Thursday's contest, but the White Sox challenged that Beckham caught Soto's throw and caught Marte's leg in one motion before Marte hit the base. Video review overturned the call, resulting in an inning-ending double play since Andrew McCutchen struck out on the Samardzija pitch.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Across his last 124 innings -- since Sept. 7 -- Cole has allowed more than a solo run in only three of them (two runs each time).
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates:A.J. Burnett, out to protect his National League second-best ERA of 1.89, leads the Bucs into Washington as they face the Nationals at 7:05 p.m. ET in the opener of a three-game series. Burnett's 12-5 career record against the Nationals is his best against any opponent.
White Sox:Chris Sale (6-3, 3.01) is coming off of a loss to the Rays in his last start, despite striking out 12 in the game and allowing three hits over 6 2/3 innings. Sale joined Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez as the only pitchers since 1914 (per Elias) to strike out at least 12 in at least four straight starts. He has 79 strikeouts over his last 53 1/3 innings.