After Carlos Martinez got the best of the Pirates in the first game of an important NL Central battle on Thursday, it was Gerrit Cole’s turn last night. Cole allowed two runs over seven innings as the Pirates defeated the Cardinals 5-2 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
Cole held St. Louis to five hits while walking two and striking out three. The only offense against him was a two-run homer from Matt Carpenter in the third inning.
Neil Walker led the charge for Pittsburgh’s offense, going 3-for-4 with a two-run homer. Lance Lynn gave up five runs in just four innings of work in the loss. Mark Melancon finished off the win for Pittsburgh with his MLB-leading 29th save.
Cole leads the majors with 13 wins and has an excellent 2.30 ERA and 116/28 K/BB ratio in 117 1/3 innings this season.
With the win, the Pirates are 4 1/2 games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central. The series will continue tonight with a matchup of John Lackey and A.J. Burnett.
Your Friday box scores and AP recaps:
White Sox 1, Cubs 0
Cardinals 2, Pirates 5
Yankees 5, Red Sox 1
Diamondbacks 2, Mets 4
Athletics 1, Indians 5
Astros 1, Rays 3
Reds 1, Marlins 0
Nationals 2, Orioles 3
Padres 3, Rangers 4
Blue Jays 3, Royals 0
Braves 3, Rockies 5
Tigers 6, Twins 8
Brewers 2, Dodgers 3
Angels 7, Mariners 3
Phillies 2, Giants 15
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.