Pirates rookie Gerrit Cole struck out a career-high 12 batters over just six innings of work, and Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez both homered as Pittsburgh ended a three-game losing streak and salvaged the final game of a four-game series with the Padres by beating San Diego 10-1 on Thursday afternoon at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
Cole (9-7; 3.23 ERA) threw 97 pitches, allowed only one run and just four hits and walked three batters. Tony Watson, Jason Grilli and Stolmy Pimentel all tossed an inning of scoreless relief.
The victory moved the Bucs back to within one game of first-place St. Louis in the National League Central Division, and lowered their “magic number” for clinching their first playoff berth in 21 years to four (Pittsburgh wins and Washington losses).
Walker wen 4-for-5 with 3 RBI’s, and now is 10-for-17 with 3 homers and 10 RBI’s in the last five seasons against Thursday’s San Diego starter Ian Kennedy (6-10 overall – 3-2 with the Padres; 5.06 ERA). Alvarez slammed his league-leading 34th homer, and drove in another run with a ground ball, raising his RBI total to 93. Jose Tabata, contributed 2 hits and 3 RBI’s. Justin Morneau, Tony Sanchez and Jordy Mercer also recorded two hits for the Pirates.
The Bucs outhit the Padres 14-5. Rookie Tommy Medica, who spent most of the year in “AA” ball, drove home the only run for San Diego (71-81).
Pittsburgh (88-65) will open their final home series of the season on Friday night against the third-place Cincinnati Reds (87-66), who trail the Bucs by only one game. In the opener of the three-game affair, the Pirates will start their top winner, Francisco Liriano (16-7; 2.92 ERA), against the Reds’ Mat Latos (14-6; 3.14 ERA). The Bucs will finish the regular season next week with road series in Chicago and Cincinnati.