Kruk & Kuip: 'The Giants felt they had to retaliate'
In his major league debut, 2011 No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole allowed two runs and seven hits over 6.1 innings. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
PITTSBURGH – The rookie kept throwing his blazing fastball – 97, 98, 99 mph – and dared them to hit it.
Once upon a time, that was Tim Lincecum throwing smoke and pulling the occasional string and making everyone in the stands giddy because all the fuss was genuine.
Lincecum was on the mound Tuesday night, but he was not the reason the lines were so long at the turnstiles and so short at the concession stands at PNC Park. The fans came to welcome Gerrit Cole, the first overall pick in the 2011 draft, and see if the kid could nudge their Pirates that much closer to baseball relevance again.
Cole threw strike after strike, reaching 99 mph, and walked off the mound to a standing ovation in the seventh inning. Lincecum, meanwhile, stumbled into deep counts and found himself even unable to put away a hitter making his first big league at-bat.
Cole hit a two-run single off a Lincecum mistake in the second inning, Hunter Pence’s error set up two more unearned runs in the fifth and the Giants lost 8-2 on the banks of the Allegheny River.
They also might have lost second baseman Marco Scutaro, who wore the lines of pain and frustration on his face after getting hit on the left hand by a pitch in the seventh inning. Scutaro did not stay in the game and walked up the tunnel with a trainer, likely headed for the X-ray room.
Starting pitching report
Lincecum scrambled well enough and didn’t completely pitch the Giants out of the game. But nobody would mistake him for an elite pitcher, either.
He started inauspicious enough, going 3-0 to Starling Marte before issuing a walk, and then allowing a stolen base. He got out of that inning when Marte made a blunder by running into a tag.
He had a chance to escape the second inning, too, after the Pirates hit three consecutive singles to load the bases with no outs. First baseman Brandon Belt reached two rows deep into the stands to catch a foul pop, and Lincecum got ahead 0-2 on Cole.
But then Lincecum barely missed with a fastball and nibbled with a slider and changeup to run the count full. And even a pitcher making his first big league at-bat can be dangerous when he knows something straight is coming. Cole turned around a fastball and it took a hustling cutoff from center fielder Gregor Blanco to keep it from being a three-run double.
Lincecum scrambled again, first to get an out at the plate when third baseman Joaquin Arias threw home, and then again in the third inning while pitching around Andrew McCutchen’s leadoff double.
But a one-out walk to McCutchen in the fifth started the rally that would end Lincecum’s night. Garrett Jones followed with a line drive and Pence appeared to be caught in between diving or playing it off a hop. The short hop ended up playing him, as it got past Pence and rolled to the track. McCutchen scored and Jones, who stopped at third, scored on Pedro Alvarez’s single that knocked Lincecum from the game.
Lincecum threw 102 pitches (61 strikes) in just 4 2/3 innings.
Starling Marte hit a home run off Jose Mijares in the sixth, but the real fireworks happened later.
George Kontos, who was well rested after having not appeared in 10 days, gave up a home run to Alvarez in the seventh and then drew warnings from plate umpire Wally Bell when he threw behind Marte in the eighth. Two batters later, Kontos hit McCutchen with a pitch and drew an automatic ejection. Giants manager Bruce Bochy, by rule, was ejected as well – and both men almost assuredly will have to serve suspensions in the near future.
Kontos calmly walked off the mound. Tempers never flared, maybe because if Kontos was getting retaliation for Scutaro, he went about it by the book and below the shoulders.
At the plate
Cole threw 97, 98 and 99 mph to blow away Gregor Blanco to start the first inning, and kept throwing fastballs for strikes while dropping in a slow slider to keep the Giants’ bats from cranking up too early.
Cole threw 14 of 18 pitches for strikes in the first inning, 14 of 16 in the second inning, seven of nine in the third and four of five in the fourth.
He didn’t have a three-ball count until he faced Belt with two outs in the sixth.
The Giants are not a strikeout team – they have the fewest in the National League – and Cole didn’t try for them in vain.
His efficiency was startling in contrast to Lincecum, although the Giants finally touched him in the seventh when Andres Torres and Brandon Crawford singled, then Tony Abreu hit a pinch double to send Pirates manager Clint Hurdle to the mound and the crowd to its feet.
Brett Pill followed with an RBI ground out to charge a second run to Cole, who struck out only two but did not walk a batter.
Pence’s error was just the second by the Giants in eight games and it led to the first unearned runs against them in 90 innings, spanning 11 games.
The Pirates announced 30,614 paid, and the crowd was late-arriving because of lengthy security delays entering the ballpark. Turns out the Pirates decided Tuesday was the night to begin wanding all fans for weapons – on the night they debuted their top prospect. The result was predictable and the Pirates issued an apology to fans who missed Cole’s electric first inning.
The Giants and Pirates continue their three-game series at PNC Park. Left-hander Barry Zito (4-4, 4.06) tries to improve a ghastly 10.19 road ERA while facing left-hander Francisco Liriano (4-2, 1.75). It’s the first time that Liriano will face his former organization; he was dealt to the Twins along with Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser in 2003 for A.J. Pierzynski. First pitch is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. PDT.