Pirates’ Cole gets another crack at Reds (Sep 17, 2017)

CINCINNATI — For the first time in his career, Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole won’t have to answer questions about having never beaten the Cincinnati Reds when he faces them at Great American Ball Park on Sunday afternoon.

But the Reds still seem to maintain the upper hand on the 27-year-old veteran.

Cole finally beat the Reds on Aug. 26, taking matters into his own hands that day by pitching a shutout and also hitting a solo home run in a 1-0 victory. It was Cole’s first victory over Cincinnati.

The Reds beat Cole again, however, at PNC Park on Sept. 1, giving him a 1-7 record and 4.79 ERA in 11 career starts against them. Cole is 1-3 with a 3.54 ERA in seven career starts at Great American Ball Park.

Sunday’s finale of a three-game series will be Cole’s 31st start of the season. In his last outing, Cole took a 5-2 loss in Milwaukee, allowing five earned runs on seven hits through six innings.

Cole has been tough on the road, going 8-1 in his last 10 starts with a 2.90 ERA in the last nine, including the shutout at Cincinnati in August.

The Reds (65-84) have been closely monitoring the innings of their young starters for the past few weeks.

On Sunday, rookie Robert Stephenson (4-5, 5.45 ERA) will make his 23rd appearance and ninth start.

Rookie right-handers Tyler Mahle and Luis Castillo already have been shut down for the season because of innings limits.

“We were able to satisfy what our goals were,” Reds manager Bryan Price said, “which was to get them acclimated to the big leagues.”

Following Stephenson’s start Sunday and Monday’s off-day, right-hander Jackson Stephens will pitch Tuesday and right-hander Rookie Davis will start Wednesday.

Stephenson, 24, makes his seventh career appearance and fifth start against Pittsburgh. He is 1-0 with a 5.63 ERA against the Pirates.

Stephenson’s 13-4 loss Tuesday at St. Louis snapped a four-start streak in which he went 4-0 with a 2.38 ERA. He became the first Reds rookie pitcher to win four consecutive starts while allowing two runs or fewer in each outing since Tim Pugh in 1992.

Cincinnati is 12-6 against the Pirates this season, including 6-3 at Great American Ball Park. Cincinnati won eight of the first nine meetings this season.

The Reds have pulled to within three games of the fourth-place Pirates. Beginning June 13, Cincinnati has been in fifth place for 96 straight days.

The Pirates (68-81) hope to have outfielder Starling Marte available Sunday. He hasn’t played since Wednesday, the day after he left a game in Milwaukee with finger and shoulder discomfort after sliding headfirst into a base. Marte is 4-for-33 in his last nine games.

Cincinnati still is without center fielder and leadoff Billy Hamilton, who has a fractured thumb. He is expected to get the splint removed soon, at which time he’ll be evaluated to see if he can return this season. Jesse Winker has been batting leadoff.