The Pittsburgh Pirates committed two costly errors in a 4-2 loss to St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday night, but it was a sinking line drive that left fielder Gregory Polanco misplayed into a triple in the sixth that was the turning point.
Cole (14-6) lasted 5 1/3 innings, giving up three earned runs. He’s 0-2 with a 4.41 ERA in three August starts totaling 16 1/3 innings.
“We’re playing a tough team that really magnifies any mistakes that you make,” Cole said. “It’s not frustrating for me, it’s probably frustrating for us as a whole. Nobody wants to come out and not play sharp against these guys, especially.”
Polanco attempted to make a shoe-top catch on a sinking drive by Yadier Molina, but the ball scooted past to the wall to allow Randal Grichuk to score and break a 2-2 tie. Molina then scored on Stephen Piscotty’s single through a drawn-in infield.
Second baseman Neil Walker’s throwing error on a potential double-play ball by Jason Heyward in the third handcuffed first baseman Pedro Alvarez on a short hop and led to the Cardinals’ first two runs.
Manager Clint Hurdle said defensive lapses have become a trend recently when Cole takes the mound.
“He’s had four outings in a row where we haven’t defended the ball very well behind him,” Hurdle said. “Runs have been tainted throughout his outings. He pitched well. He deserved better.”
The anticipated marquee pitching matchup between Michael Wacha (14-4) and Cole didn’t live up to expectations, as both were gone by the seventh. Those two are tied for the major league lead in wins with Seattle’s Felix Hernandez.
“Fastball location was sub-par,” Cole said. “I tried to go in on Molina and pulled it all the way across the middle of the plate. It hasn’t been the easiest last few starts.”
St. Louis gave up an easy run, too, when Grichuk badly misplayed an attempted diving catch in center on Andrew McCutchen’s RBI triple that tied it at 2 in the fifth. Grichuk landed early and bounced as the ball rolled past him to the wall.
Kevin Siegrist worked two perfect innings and Trevor Rosenthal finished for his 35th save in 37 chances.
The Cardinals lead the second-place Pirates by seven games and will attempt to complete a three-game sweep on Thursday night. St. Louis improved to a season-best 33 games above .500 at 73-40.
McCutchen hit his 18th homer and Polanco had three hits for the second straight game for the Pirates, who are 0-5 in St. Louis and 5-2 against the Cardinals at home. The first four losses at Busch Stadium were all by one run.
“Just another one,” McCutchen said. “Another game that we have those few innings that seem to go their way every time we come here.”
Wacha scattered nine hits and three walks in six innings, allowing two runs. Pittsburgh left the bases loaded in the fourth and stranded two in the fifth and sixth.
HEAD TO HEAD
Wacha is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in three starts against Pittsburgh. Cole has lost three straight starts on the road after winning the previous three and is 0-2 with a 3.80 ERA against the Cardinals in four starts this season.
Polanco had six straight hits, tying the franchise best this season, followed by an intentional walk in the sixth before flying out to open the ninth.
Pirates: Starling Marte was removed before the bottom of the third because of discomfort in his left hand from fouling off a ball in the first.
Cardinals: GM John Mozeliak is hopeful Matt Adams (quad surgery) can go on a rehab assignment before the end of the minor league season. Adams has been cleared to swing.
Pirates: Francisco Liriano (7-6, 3.13) has a 2.53 ERA in his last 13 starts but is just 6-2 during that stretch.
Cardinals: Lance Lynn (9-6, 2.76) has been dominant at home with six wins and a 2.15 ERA.