Offense finally roars to life in Pirates' win over Giants
Put aside, for a moment, the pyrotechnics Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole displayed on the mound Tuesday in his big league debut. That was no surprise.
Instead, savor what Cole did at the plate in the second inning, when the Pirates had the bases loaded and San Francisco Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum fired a full-count fastball.
Cole smacked a two-run single, his first hit since he was a high school senior in 2008. The rest of the Pirates' offense eventually came around. Russell Martin had an RBI single, Starling Marte hit a solo homer and Pedro Alvarez launched a majestic, two-run shot.
The Pirates routed the Giants, 8-2. It was the most runs the Pirates had scored in a game in exactly one month, and only one run fewer than they scored in the just-completed weekend series against the Chicago Cubs.
“It's a good night for the organization,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “A special night.”
In the second inning, Martin, Alvarez and Neil Walker hit consecutive singles to load the bases with none out. Cole singled to right field to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead.
“The biggest at-bat of the game,” Lincecum said. “You have to take advantage of the fact that it's the pitcher. Just go after him. I wasn't as aggressive as I needed to be.”
Cole seemed almost embarrassed by the hit.
“I just got lucky,” Cole insisted. “I'm not a hitter.”
The No. 1 overall draft pick in 2011, Cole (1-0) pitched 61⁄3 innings and allowed two runs and seven hits. Although he got just two strikeouts, 59 of his 81 pitches were strikes.
“He threw well,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “Power arm, just like we thought, and the bat was impressive, too.”
Cole is the first Pirates pitcher to win his major league debut since Paul Maholm in 2005. After Maholm, nine others combined to go 0-4 — including Phil Irwin, who got a no-decision April 14 — giving the Pirates the longest inaugural game winless streak in the majors.
Early in the game, when Cole was fueled by adrenaline, things were a little herky-jerky. His first two innings were scoreless, but he also allowed five baserunners.
After plunking Gregor Blanco in the second inning, Cole retired the next 13 batters. Once he settled in, Cole began pounding the bottom of the strike zone. Five of the first seven outs he recorded were on balls in the air. Eight of his final 11 outs came on grounders.
Cole's first pitch of the game was a 96 mph fastball that Blanco took for a strike. Blanco swung at the next two, not that it helped. Cole blew two more heaters — the first 96 mph, the second 99 — past him for a three-pitch strikeout.
The crowd of 30,614 — minus several hundred who were stuck outside PNC Park in long queues caused by enhanced security measures — roared its approval.
“I didn't really feel my legs after that,” Cole said. “The crowd went crazy. It was a lot of fun.”
Cole's first strikeout was followed by his first hit allowed. Marco Scutaro lined a single into right field. That established a pattern Cole followed the first two innings: out, hit, out, hit. When Blanco took a 97 mph fastball in the ribs in the second inning, it loaded the bases with two outs. Cole got out of the jam by getting Scutaro to fly out on an 0-2 pitch.
“I was thinking, ‘I'd better make a pitch, or we're screwed. Get over it and let's go,' ” Cole said. “I wasn't nervous before the game, and that was weird. I was kind of nervous about not being nervous. Fortunately, we made a lot of great defensive plays and guys hit the crap out of the ball.”
The Pirates got two unearned runs in the fifth inning. By the sixth, when Marte ripped a solo homer to left, Lincecum (4-6) was out of the game. He pitched 42⁄3 innings and allowed four runs (two earned) and seven hits.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
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