By Joe Resnick
September 20, 2015
Pittsburgh Pirates' Starling Marte points to the sky after hitting a solo home run during the third inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Pittsburgh Pirates showed the team with the most home runs in the National League they can hold their own in the power department — a fact greatly appreciated by Gerrit Cole.
Starling Marte hitting a tying home run, Pedro Alvarez had a go-ahead homer and the Pirates beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-3 Sunday to open a two-game lead over the Chicago Cubs for the NL's first wild-card berth.
Cole (17-8) allowed three runs and six hits in seven innings and struck out nine, improving to 3-0 in four career starts against Los Angeles.
"I had pretty good command of my fastball," Cole said. "They capitalized on a couple of mistakes, a couple of bad breaking balls that caught too much of the plate in some situations, but I was still able to make pitches and minimize damage."
Manager Clint Hurdle was ecstatic about Cole's outing.
"The fastball played for him all day long," Hurdle said. "His fastball had life, it had finish, and he executed with it. For me, that was basically what got him through seven innings — grit, determination, and a major league fastball.
"At the end of the day, he had no walks with six three-ball counts, which is pretty impressive," Hurdle added. "He put away nine guys with swing-and-miss stuff, and retired 10 guys on three pitches or less. So the pitch-ability is growing, the experience is growing, and he's got another gear that he can go to late in the game."
The top overall pick in the 2011 amateur draft, Cole has 38 big league wins. He made his major league debut on June 11, 2013, and since then only Zack Greinke (47), Clayton Kershaw (46) and Madison Bumgarner (44) have more victories.
"That's pretty good company to be in, and it's pretty special. But we've still got work to to, so there's not really time to reflect on those kind of thing," Cole said. "I've just got to keep moving forward."
Tony Watson and Mark Melancon followed with perfect innings of relief, and Melancon got his 48th save in 50 chances.
Pittsburgh, which trails NL Central-leading St. Louis by four games, is a big league-best 34-17 in one-run games and improved to 23-6 against the NL West.
Bolsinger (6-4) gave up four runs — three earned — and five hits in 4 1-3 innings. The Dodgers' magic number for clinching their third straight NL West title stayed at seven. Los Angeles fell to 17-17 against the NL Central.
"The feel for those offspeed pitches really isn't there," Bolsinger said. "You can sit there and go watch the videos and look at your mechanics. But all in all it's just when you get that feel for a pitch like I had, it just comes out of your hand no what matter what your mechanics are. I just don't have that feel."
Marte's 17th homer this season tied the score 2-2 in the third, a drive halfway up the pavilion seats in left-center, and Alvarez hit his team-high 25th homer to put Pittsburgh ahead in the fourth. Twenty of Alvarez's homers have come with the bases empty.
"The guys did a great job against Bolsinger, capitalized on some of his mistakes, wore him down and got him out of the game quick," Cole said. "Then I had a job to do, and that was to keep them at bay. Anytime you get the lead, you've got to find another gear to shut them down."
Bolsinger issued three walks — all to 2013 NL MVP Andrew McCutchen. The right-hander departed after the third one, and Aramis Ramirez greeted Yimi Garcia with an RBI single that made it 4-2.
Scott Van Slyke made it a one-run game in the seventh with the Dodgers' 174th homer, and only the second home run allowed by Cole in 61 2-3 innings over his last 10 starts.
Marte threw out Alex Guerrero in the second when Guerrero tried to stretch his RBI single to left into a double. Marte leads the NL with 15 outfield assists, and the Pirates top the league with 35.
Pirates: RHP A.J. Burnett (8-5) will start the opener of a four-game series on Monday night at Colorado, his first start against the Rockies in more than two years.
Dodgers: LHP Brett Anderson (9-8) will start the opener of a four-game set against Arizona. He leads the majors in ground-ball percentage (66.7) and grounder-to-fly ratio (4.29).