Mechanics betray Cole vs. nemesis Reds

Pirates starter unable to make it out of the fifth for the first time since June 2014

Mechanics betray Cole vs. nemesis Reds

PITTSBURGH -- Like any other starting pitcher, Gerrit Cole prides himself on pitching deep into games. He's done so effectively throughout the course of his young career, battling through long innings and virtually always finishing at least five innings.

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But that wasn't the case for Cole at PNC Park on Wednesday, a rare off night in which he surrendered four runs in a 38-pitch first and left the mound after only 4 2/3 innings as the Pirates lost, 5-2, to the Reds.

"Obviously it's frustrating that I couldn't go deeper into the game," Cole said.

The 24-year-old right-hander added a third loss to his Major League-leading 11 wins Wednesday night. It was the second-shortest start of Cole's career and the first time since June 28, 2014, that he couldn't complete five innings.

Cole was battling his mechanics as much as he was the Reds' hitters in the first inning. As a result, Cole said, his fastball and breaking balls lacked their usual movement.

"It boiled down to me not executing pitches and pitches being flat today," Cole said. "It happens sometimes."

Cincinnati's hitters capitalized on the opportunity, putting together a two-out rally that produced four runs on four straight hits in the first inning.

"It was big to get on him early. Once he starts cruising, he just doesn't let up," said Reds left fielder Marlon Byrd, who hit a two-run homer and an RBI single off Cole. "We needed the runs early."

Byrd's two-run homer

Despite his mechanical hiccups, Cole still had a chance to get out of the first inning unscathed. Reds leadoff man Billy Hamilton walked and stole two bases, but Cole struck out the next two hitters and ran up a 2-2 count against Todd Frazier.

Cole fired a slider down and away, but Frazier flicked it to right field for an RBI double to keep the inning alive. Jay Bruce followed with another RBI double, then Byrd launched a homer to center.

Frazier's RBI double

"There was a tipping point. He's one pitch away from getting out of the inning," PIrates manager Clint Hurdle said. "There's such a fine line between giving up runs and not giving up runs."

There is no such line, however, between Cole's struggles against the Reds compared to his dominance of the rest of the league.

Cole has thrown 12 quality starts in 15 outings this year, and the other three came against Cincinnati. He's gone 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in three starts against the Reds this year and 11-1 with a 1.33 ERA against everyone else.

"He's a human being. Sometimes it's just not going to work," Hurdle said. "He's going to do everything he can to get outs and to win games and pitch well, and sometimes it doesn't work."

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.