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One bad frame dooms Cole's outing

After four stellar innings, ace yields five runs in fifth
MLB.com

BOSTON -- Walking off the field after a frustrating five-run fifth inning by the Red Sox, catcher Francisco Cervelli wrapped his arm around Pirates ace Gerrit Cole as they approached the dugout steps. The only thing Cervelli could offer, he said, was sympathy.

"The way baseball is going now, that's my frustration," Cervelli said after the Pirates' 5-3 loss. "That's it. That's all I can say."

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BOSTON -- Walking off the field after a frustrating five-run fifth inning by the Red Sox, catcher Francisco Cervelli wrapped his arm around Pirates ace Gerrit Cole as they approached the dugout steps. The only thing Cervelli could offer, he said, was sympathy.

"The way baseball is going now, that's my frustration," Cervelli said after the Pirates' 5-3 loss. "That's it. That's all I can say."

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After four magnificent innings in his first career Opening Day start, Cole finally relented in the fifth. The Red Sox sent nine men to the plate, strung together six straight two-out hits and put up five runs that proved to be the Pirates' undoing at Fenway Park.

Video: PIT@BOS: Hurdle discusses Cole's rough Opening Day

What stood out, perhaps even more than Jackie Bradley Jr.'s rally-starting triple or Andrew Benintendi's three-run homer, was the pair of infield hits that kept the inning alive.

Video: PIT@BOS: Benintendi crushes three-run home run

"They just hit them where we weren't," Cole said.

Cole mowed down the Red Sox for 4 2/3 innings. He cruised through the first four on 50 pitches, facing only one batter above the minimum, and he recorded two quick outs to begin the fifth. Then Bradley ripped a triple to right, bringing up Pablo Sandoval.

Video: PIT@BOS: Sandoval hustles out RBI infield single

Sandoval hit a ground ball to the left side, where shortstop Jordy Mercer is typically positioned. But Mercer was shifted toward second base, so by the time he could get to the ball and make a desperate throw to first, Sandoval was safe and Bradley scored.

The next batter, No. 9-hitting catcher Sandy Leon, noticed the Bucs were in a more extreme shift. The Pirates played the odds that if Leon put a ball on the ground, it would be to the right side, so third baseman David Freese lined up in shallow right field.

Video: PIT@BOS: Leon reaches on bunt single to third

At that point, Leon said, his only goal was to get on base and turn over the lineup for Dustin Pedroia.

"I just saw where the defense was set up and I knew I had a chance," Leon said.

Leon dropped a well-placed bunt between third base and the mound. The only person nearby was Cole. Leon reached safely, and Cole stared into the Pirates' dugout. Pedroia promptly singled in a run, and Benintendi crushed a fastball into the Pirates' bullpen in right field.

Cole's final line (five innings, seven hits and five runs) doesn't reflect the way he pitched most of the day. In the second inning, Cole struck out Mitch Moreland on a 99-mph fastball and then began a double play with a 98.2-mph fastball to Xander Bogaerts.

Coming off a season marred by injuries, Cole had a healthy spring and looked strong as he traded zeros with reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello.

"Very encouraged through the first four innings," manager Clint Hurdle said. "There's definitely a body of work to build on moving forward."

Cole reveled in the atmosphere around Fenway Park, from the sold-out crowd to the oddity of watching from afar as New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady tackled teammate Rob Gronkowski during the pregame ceremonies. In that regard, Cole said, the Opening Day experience lived up to the hype.

"It was a really special environment," Cole said. "It's something I'll always remember. I'll just probably forget everything that happened after the fourth."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.

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

Pittsburgh Pirates, Gerrit Cole