Pittsburgh Pirates' starter Gerrit Cole's eighth major league start was his best yet. It's probably not surprising that it came against the Washington Nationals. Nats' batters connected for just two hits in seven innings against the 22-year-old 2011 no.1 overall pick with Wilson Ramos' third inning solo home run accounting for the only run the Nationals scored in the Nats' 5-1 loss in the nation's capital. Cole walked one, K'd four and induced 10 ground ball outs in earning his fifth win of the season.
"I tip my hat," Davey Johnson told reporters. "That guy's got good stuff. And he was locating. He had a couple fastballs: one a runner; one the bottom fell out and he had good breaking stuff to go with it. I can see why he was the no.1 pick."
Taylor Jordan, the Nationals' 2009 9th Round pick, put together one of his best starts as well. In his fifth outing with the Nationals, the sinker-balling 24-year-old right-hander got 14 groundouts from the 24 batters he faced in 7 2/3 IP. The Pirates scored three runs in the second, two of them after an error on a play that could have helped Jordan out of the jam he found himself in with minimal damage.
Jordan retired 14 of the next sixteen batters he faced after the third run scored on him in the second and had two down in the eighth when Pedro Alvarez hit just the third home run the Nats' starter has surrendered at any of the three levels he's pitched at this season. A single by Russell Martin followed, ending Jordan's night, and the Pirates' catcher ended up scoring the fourth earned run Jordan allowed.
"He had pitched so good in the seventh," Davey Johnson said after the game. "I was going to take him out for the left-hander [Alvarez], but I thought he deserved a chance to win that ballgame. And just made one bad pitch to him, hung a changeup up to Alvarez. But Taylor pitched one heck of a ballgame right when it was needed. My bullpen was in shambles. And he did a great job. Deserved better."
Alvarez got hold a hanging 1-2 change to hit the second home run Taylor Jordan's allowed in 29 1/3 IP in the majors this season. Johnson said giving up a home run in that count could be attributed to, "... a little bit of inexperience," on Jordan's part. "Because [the] only time he's got hurt he's had two strikes on the hitter and then he's made a pretty fat pitch. But that was still a performance tonight. He pitched outstanding."
"I had every intention of taking him out after the first two batters there," Johnson said again, "but he deserved a chance from me to pitch eight and have a chance to win it." Asked how the pitcher had progressed since being called up to make his MLB debut, the Nats' skipper said Jordan's slider has improved. "His slider has gotten a lot better. His slider... he's got good bite on it and he's locating it well. Still got a great changeup and fastball."
Asked if Jordan has done enough to solidify a spot in the rotation going forward, Johnson said, "He has," but then cautioned that his innings/pitch limits the right-hander is on in his first full-year back from Tommy John surgery will be a consideration. "He's also on an innings limit so we'll have to be careful about that."
As for the play that really cost the right-hander in the second, the Nationals' manager, who played the majority of his minor league career at short before switching to second when he came up with the Orioles, said that too could be chalked up to inexperience. With runners on the corners after the Nats got a force at second on a bases loaded RBI groundout, Anthony Rendon made his way over to second on a grounder to third by Jordy Mercer, but dropped the throw from Ryan Zimmerman on a close play at second.
"It takes, I say, eighty ballgames over there to where -- that was the mistake an inexperienced second baseman makes on a throw from third," Johnson explained. "You assume you're going to catch it and you peek towards the runner, and it's always that transition, you've got to see it in the glove before you do it. And he's been pretty good about it, that was his first little blip where he peeked."
The Nationals' manager was clear, however, that he's been impressed with the way Rendon's made the transition to second. "There's no doubt about it. It's not easy and having basically no experience over there he's done a great job. I had the same probably with [Brooks Robinson] because he would fling it from every direction and that ball could sometimes sail because he'd get rid of it quick. But he's doing fine."
More from Federal Baseball:
- Nationals Drop Fifth Straight: Davey Johnson On Taylor Jordan And Anthony Rendon
- Game 100 WPA: Dropping the ball. Nats 1, Bucs 5
- Pirates 5-1 Over Nationals: Nats Drop Fifth Straight In Spite Of Taylor Jordan's Effort
- Nationals' Lefty Ross Detwiler To See Back Specialist In LA
- Nationals' Tuesday Night Lineup vs The Pirates And Gerrit Cole