By Adam Berry and John McGonigal
MLB.com |@adamdberry |
PITTSBURGH -- All-Star right-hander Gerrit Cole picked up his Major League-leading 14th win of the season, as the Pirates beat the Nationals, 3-1, at PNC Park on Sunday afternoon.
A day after the Nationals pounded out nine runs on 14 hits, Cole limited Washington to one run on seven hits while striking out eight over 7 2/3 innings. He lowered his ERA to 2.24, the third-lowest mark in the National League.
"I didn't have my best stuff, but I thought I used it effectively," Cole said. "We sequenced some stuff up, we set the fastball up, we set the breaking ball up after the fastball, as well."
The Pirates' lineup backed Cole with a trio of early runs off Nationals starter Joe Ross, who struck out seven and allowed only five hits over six innings of work. Gregory Polanco and Andrew McCutchen each drove in a run during the third inning, and second baseman Neil Walker added a solo homer in the fourth, as the Bucs topped the Nationals for the third time in four days.
"I think we were able to do enough," said Pirates second baseman Neil Walker. "Obviously, when we have Cole on the mound, we feel like two, three runs on most occasions is enough. Today was no different."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Taylor strikes again: A day removed from his first career four-hit game, which included a home run, Taylor picked up where he left off on Sunday, cranking his eighth home run of the 2015 season. In the third inning, Taylor drove a 93-mph fastball from Cole into the right-center stands, giving Washington its only run of the ballgame.
"Hopefully, I can build off of these last few days," Taylor said.
Just a bit outside: The Pirates responded to Taylor's home run with a two-run third, and the first Pittsburgh run was due in large part to Taylor. Charging on a Polanco single, Taylor tried to barehand the ball and throw it home in an attempt to nab Chris Stewart at the plate. The ball went up the line a bit, and catcher Wilson Ramos was unable to corral it -- allowing not only Stewart to score, but letting Polanco move up to third.
"It was off," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "I don't know if he got the proper grip, but it's up the line."
Mr. July: Walker continued his hot month at the plate, giving the Pirates a two-run lead in the fourth inning with a solo shot that landed in the Bucs' bullpen in left-center field. Historically at his best in July, Walker has now hit five of his nine homers over his last 22 games.
A slide and a stop: Cole gave way to left-handed reliever Tony Watson with two outs in the seventh and Nationals slugger Bryce Harper coming to the plate. Watson induced a hard grounder that appeared as if it might slip into right field. But Sean Rodriguez, a defensive replacement at first base for Pedro Alvarez, slid to his right, backhanded the ball, spun and threw it to Watson at first base for the inning-ending out.
"We're built to pitch and play defense, and we've got guys that take pride in it," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We'll continue to do that." More >
"It's really fun to play in front of [a crowd like this]. People have asked me, 'What's the difference between pitching at home and pitching on the road?' It's the fans. When you come out and everybody shows up like they did this weekend, it's a hostile environment for the other team. ... The extra adrenaline rush when you make a great play and 38,000 get to their feet is pretty cool." -- Cole, on pitching at PNC Park
"For such a young pitcher, he's not rattled. Regardless of situation, who he's facing, it doesn't matter." -- Williams, on Ross' composure on the moundMore >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Cole is the first Pirates pitcher to record 14 wins before August since Dock Ellis was 15-4 through July in 1971. More >
The Pirates announced a sold-out crowd of 37,597 on Sunday, their 15th sellout of the season. That brought the total attendance for this series to 151,952, a PNC Park record for a four-game series.
Nationals: Washington will use an off-day to recuperate before starting a three-game series in Miami at 7:10 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Marlins Park. Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (8-5, 3.30 ERA) will look to improve his 2015 road ERA of 5.14. The 29-year-old has faced the Marlins twice this season, yielding just three earned runs in 13 innings of work.
Pirates: After an off-day on Monday, the Pirates will head to Minnesota to kick off a two-game series against the Twins on Tuesday night at Target Field at 8:10 ET. Right-hander Charlie Morton will get the start, looking to improve on a six-start stretch in which he's gone 1-4 with a 7.76 ERA. The Twins swept the Pirates in a two-game set at PNC Park in May.
Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. John McGonigal is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.