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Cole spins quality start, but bats fall flat

Righty allows two runs over six frames, but offense tallies just four hits

SAN DIEGO -- This cross-country rivalry went cross-town, Los Angeles style, with UCLA product Gerrit Cole on Wednesday dueling USC's Ian Kennedy -- who wound up crossing out the Pirates.

With Kennedy turning in seven strong innings, the Padres edged the Bucs, 2-1, at Petco Park.

Full Game Coverage

SAN DIEGO -- This cross-country rivalry went cross-town, Los Angeles style, with UCLA product Gerrit Cole on Wednesday dueling USC's Ian Kennedy -- who wound up crossing out the Pirates.

With Kennedy turning in seven strong innings, the Padres edged the Bucs, 2-1, at Petco Park.

Full Game Coverage

Meanwhile, the Cardinals and the Reds put another tag-team pin on the Bucs. Both chasers won, nearing St. Louis within one game and Cincinnati within 2 1/2 of the division leaders.

This was a change of pace after the Pirates had taken the first two games of the series, by a cumulative score of 11-2.

And speaking of changeups ...

"[Kennedy's] changeup was filthy," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "His fastball is at 91 mph, but after that change looks way hotter than that."

In total agreement with that assessment was Garrett Jones -- who saw a total of seven pitches in three at-bats against Kennedy, all seven strikes, and fanned twice, including with the bases loaded to end the first inning.

"I saw the ball OK," Jones said, "he just has a good changeup. It comes out of his hand real slow, seems to never get there, and you try to stay on it as long as you can, but then he can sneak his fastball by you. He was able to throw his changeup whenever he wanted to in the count, I guess that's what made him so effective."

Jones then added something to raise eyebrows, considering that Kennedy was a 21-game winner two years ago for the D-backs:

"I've faced him a lot with Arizona, and that's the best I've ever seen him."

Kennedy was good enough to engulf Cole with frustration at the end of one of his most dogged, competitive outings. He allowed 10 hits, yet only two runs, and still virtually stomped off the mound after the sixth, which he knew was his last inning.

"I felt like I let a pretty good opportunity slip away," Cole said. "We had an opportunity to come in here and sweep, and to set the tone for the San Francisco series. I'm just disappointed that I wasn't able to better help the team.

"I just tried to keep throwing up zeros. They did have a lot of hits, and you could kinda expect that. One, this is the Major Leagues. Two, we kinda owned them the first two days."

As Hurdle summed up the series here, "We played three games and gave up four runs."

Hours after hitting town, newest Pirate Felix Pie was front-and-center of all of Wednesday's key plays. Both of San Diego's run-scoring balls went to him -- and his strong throws home on both made for close plays -- and he also scored the Bucs' lone run, on Andrew McCutchen's eighth-inning sacrifice fly off reliever Luke Gregerson.

"First day back, he got on base a couple of times, made a couple of accurate throws home and scored our only run," Hurdle said of Pie. "He got a full day's activity, for sure."

Other than the collegiate novelty, it was the same old, rugged assignment for Cole, considering that Kennedy was a fourth-place finisher in voting for the Cy Young Award after that 21-win season in 2011. So Kennedy joined the corps of Cy Young winners (Tim Lincecum, Zack Greinke ) and close also-rans (Jered Weaver, Cole Hamels ) who have opposed the Pittsburgh rookie.

The Bucs had one early, solid shot at Kennedy, who, true to form of the toughest pitchers, grew essentially untouchable once he escaped that first-inning jam. The Bucs loaded the bases with two outs on McCutchen's single and walks of Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin, but Kennedy recovered to fan Jones on three pitches.

"It was probably a little bit too much of getting too picky and trying to throw the strikeout pitch, rather than having them put it in play," Kennedy said of how he got in trouble, then explained how he got out of it: "I threw a good fastball, 0-1, [to Jones] and when you throw a good fastball, especially down-and-away, you know that's the feeling you want. I wanted the same pitch."

Kennedy allowed two singles after that first -- another to McCutchen in the sixth and to Gaby Sanchez in the seventh -- before retiring with 108 pitches after seven. He walked three and struck out eight.

Pie spent his first few minutes as a Pirate getting dirty. He led off the game with a chopper, which he beat out for a single by diving across the first-base bag. Two pitches later, he was back in the dirt at second base, on a stolen-base attempt foiled by catcher Rene Rivera's perfect throw.

Pie was also in the middle of all of the game's scoring. With Will Venable on third -- he'd doubled, and moved up a base on Chris Denorfia's grounder -- and one out in the third, Yonder Alonso lifted a fly caught on the foul line by Pie, whose strong and accurate throw home couldn't be handled on the short hop by Martin as Venable scored on the sacrifice fly.

Two innings later, Pie charged in for Alonso's single and unleashed another strong throw home that Denorfia, running from second, barely beat to make it 2-0. Denorfia had singled with two outs and stolen second.

Cole had to pitch out of the stretch more than ever -- he allowed 10 hits, two more than his previous high -- but never seemed to be in much jeopardy. For one thing, he didn't issue any walks over six innings. Also half of those hits came with two outs, minimizing the Padres' shots at him.

He could be upset by the outcome, as a member of the team that saw its division lead shrink to one. Yet, he certainly should not have been upset by his effort.

Hurdle understood, and endorsed, his young pitcher's angst.

"The kid left the game after six innings and gave up two runs. He had to pitch out of the stretch most of the time. He competed very, very well," the manager said. "I just think he's an emotional guy. That's one of the things that fuels him, has throughout his career, since college. And I don't want to take that away from him."

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Gerrit Cole