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Tipping pitches cause of Cole's tough night

@brianmctaggart
April 21, 2019

ARLINGTON -- There was the leadoff double by Shin-Soo Choo that glanced off the glove of second baseman Jose Altuve, a walk to Elvis Andrus on a debatable pitch, a bloop double by Asdrubal Cabrera that scored a pair of runs and a fielding error by Carlos Correa that led

ARLINGTON -- There was the leadoff double by Shin-Soo Choo that glanced off the glove of second baseman Jose Altuve, a walk to Elvis Andrus on a debatable pitch, a bloop double by Asdrubal Cabrera that scored a pair of runs and a fielding error by Carlos Correa that led to another run.

As the first inning began to unravel and the pitches piled up, Astros starter Gerrit Cole searched for answers on the mound and later found some while watching video following a 9-4 loss to the Rangers on Saturday night at Globe Life Park.

Cole lasted only 4 1/3 innings and was rocked for a career-high nine runs (eight earned) and said after the game that he was tipping his pitches. He credited the Rangers for taking advantage of it, though. Texas scored five runs in the first, an inning in which Cole needed 32 pitches to record an out.

“I felt like they were on a lot of stuff in the first inning, especially their takes and some of their pitches they chose to swing at,” Cole said. “I think they were maybe a little bit of a step ahead of me in terms of maybe being able to identify what pitch I was throwing. I made some adjustments throughout the game and that seemed to clean that up, and by the time I got to the fifth, I was dog tired and started to spray again. I got as deep as I could. I kept trying to make quality pitches.”

Cole (1-3), who had four quality starts in his first four outings, allowed six of the first seven batters he faced to reach, leading to the Rangers taking a 5-0 lead. He allowed four hits and walked a pair while throwing 43 pitches in the first, with a Correa two-out error leading to an unearned run.

“It just looked like he was trying to grunt his way through his outing and get to the next pitch, and he was jumping off the rubber a little bit,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “He was going to out-stuff them. He reached deep into his tank of 98, 99 [mph] early, and when he’s doing that, he’s trying to get out of that big inning. All in all, just a bad night.”

After watching video postgame, Cole said he could tell what pitches he was going to throw without knowing and could only assume the Rangers could as well.

“That’s part of the game,” Cole said. “You’ve just got to clean that up. I mean, if you’re tipping, you’ve still got to put a good swing on the pitch. It’s not like that was all their fault. I certainly could have done a better job of trying to slow it down myself.”

The Astros needed to get some length out of Cole, and he went into the bottom of the fifth trailing, 6-2, before giving up three more runs, capped by a two-run triple by Delino DeShields that gave the Rangers a 9-2 lead. It was Cole's shortest outing since lasting only two innings on Sept. 12, 2016, with the Pirates against the Phillies.

“Those quality at-bats, especially to start the game, just sets the tone and led to a huge inning,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “Any time you get five runs on a guy like that, it’s pretty remarkable. Just a great way to start the game.”

The Astros got two-run homers from Max Stassi in the fifth and George Springer in the seventh, but they were 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position and grounded into double plays in the fourth and fifth innings to thwart rallies.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.