By HAL McCOY
Gerrit Cole, a 19-game winner last year for the Pittsburgh Pirates, must think he is facing The Big Red Machine when he pitches against the last place Cincinnati Reds.
When Cole works against the Reds he pitches like Old King Cole or Nat ‘King’ Cole.
After losing Sunday afternoon in PNC Park, 7-3, Cole is now 0-and-6 in eight career starts against the Reds.
Cole’s nemeses Sunday afternoon were opposing pitcher Dan Straily and leadoff hitter Billy Hamilton.
STRAILY CLEARLY OUTPITCHED Cole and Straily has pretty much outpitched everybody he has faced lately, quite the accomplishment for a pitcher the Reds picked up off the scrap heap on April Fool’s Day when he was released by the Oakland Athletics.
Straily, though, is no joke.
Over six innings Sunday, he gave up two runs and only three hits and both runs came on solo home runs. He started the game by retiring the first 12 Pirates by throwing nothing but strikes. He threw 85 pitches, 62 for strikes.
IT WAS HIS 14TH QUALITY start this season (six or more innings, three or less runs) and his seventh straight while posting his seventh victory. And he is 3-and-0 over his last four starts.
By pitching to contact (no walks, four strikeouts), Straily kept his defense on red alert and he benefited when center fielder Billy Hamilton, right fielder Scott Schebler and second baseman Brandon Phillips all made above-and-beyond defensive plays.
And Hamilton stole four bases, giving him 43 this year and he twice stole third, giving him 17 thefts of third base. He was on base four times with three hits and a walk.
One thing a pitcher doesn’t want to do, if he doesn’t want to get scorched, is walk Hamilton to start an inning. And Cole did it to start the game — and paid dearly.
Hamilton stole second and stole third, then scored from third on ground ball to third, breaking for home after the throw to first and the Reds had a quick 1-0 lead.
COLE ALSO WALKED JOEY Votto in the first and he, too, scored on a single by Brandon Phillips for a 2-0 lead.
Cole didn’t walk Hamilton leading off the third. He gave up a double to the right field corner. Hamilton promptly stole third, and from there he trotted home on Votto’s sacrifice fly to left.
Straily’s string of retiring the first 12 Pirates ended in the fifth when Matt Joyce led the inning with a home run, cutting Cincinnati’s lead to 3-1.
Cole, though, walked Votto on a full count with one out and that run scored, too, the third walk that came around to score. That run crossed on a bloop single to right center by Phillips that pushed the Reds to a 4-1 lead.
Straily gave up his second home run in the sixth, a rip to left field by Cincinnati native Josh Harrison that sliced the Reds lead to 4-2.
THE REDS SEEMINGLY PUT the game away against the Pirates bullpen in the seventh with three runs on a pinch-hit run-scoring single by Tony Renda, an error on third baseman Jung Ho Kang on Zack Cozart’s grounder that scored a run and a wild pitch by former Reds bullpenner Curtis Partch.
The usually reliable Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen struggled through the seventh and eighth.
Iglesias apparently didn’t pay attention to what happened to Cole when he walked batters. Iglesias, practically peerless this year, arrived in the seventh and promptly walked the first three hitters.
He wriggled out of it, though, giving up only one run, just the second run he has given up this year in 55 innings over 14 games. Iglesias struck out Harrison with the bases loaded on his 32nd pitch of the inning to snuff the rally.
Lorezen apparently didn’t watch Cole or Iglesais. He pitching the eighth and also walked the first hitter and gave up a single to put two on with no outs. But he, too, wriggled free and didn’t give up any runs, striking out John Jaso to end the inning.
After it took Iglesias and Lorenzen 57 pitches to get through the seventh and eight, Tony Cingrani pitched the ninth. He gave up a leadoff single to Jordy Mercer, then picked him off first base. Then he walked Sean Rodriguez and the afternoon finally ended when Francisco Cervelli hit into a double play.
In addition to Straily and Hamilton, Brandon Phillips put his stamp on the game with three more hits and two RBI and is putting together another hitting streak. He recently had a 16-game streak and is now back on a five-game streak with four straight multi-hit games.