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Pirates notebook: Rookie Cole unfazed by weight of 82nd win

| Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, 6:45 p.m.

ARLINGTON, Texas — Gerrit Cole admits he can't fully grasp what the Pirates' 82nd victory — a 1-0 nailbiter Monday against the Rangers — means to Pittsburgh.

“I don't think anybody can really understand it unless they've lived in Pittsburgh and been in (the fans') shoes for 20 years,” Cole said.

Cole was brilliant for seven innings, blanking the Rangers on three hits. He did not think about the game's enormous possibility — the chance to snap 20 straight seasons of losing records — while he was on the mound.

“I wish I had a better answer for you, but no,” Cole said with a smile. “I was just locked in with (catcher) Russ (Martin) and we were going pitch by pitch all night. That was what allowed me to keep the guys in the ballgame.”

It was perhaps the finest performance of the season by the rookie right-hander. Cole threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of 25 batters.

He amassed a career-high nine strikeouts, most of them on untouchable curveballs in the dirt.

“You talk about locating the breaking stuff and getting nasty with the fastball,” Cole said. “Simplify things.”

The tipping point came in the sixth inning, when the Rangers had runners on second and third with two outs. Cole fired a 99 mph fastball to Adrian Beltre, who hit a routine grounder to end the inning and keep the game scoreless.

Cole is just the eighth visiting pitcher to win at Rangers Ballpark by tossing at least seven scoreless innings with nine or more strikeouts.

“The kid was fantastic,” manager Clint Hurdle said.

Morton returns

Right-hander Charlie Morton rejoined the team after having his sore left foot examined by doctors in Pittsburgh. Morton said the pain is related to an injury to his plantar fascia.

When asked if the injury is minor, Morton paused.

“I'm pretty sure ... well, put it this way: from the diagnosis, it's not going to get any worse,” Morton said. “I've had (problems) with the plantar fascia, that sort of stuff, before. I'm sure a lot of guys do (suffer) from the irritation. This is a little different. I'll have to make do. I can pitch.”

Morton threw on flat ground and will try to throw off a mound Wednesday. Morton said he expects to make his start Friday, as scheduled. Said Hurdle: “Charlie is still a possibility.”

Unfinished business

At first, hitting coach Jay Bell was hesitant to discuss win No. 82.

“Go talk to the players first,” Bell said, shrugging off a question in the boisterous postgame clubhouse. “This is their moment.”

It was theirs, true. But it also belonged just as much to Bell, one of the links to the club's glory days of the early 1990s. Bell reconsidered, and waved over reporters.

“I'll give you the pat answer,” Bell said. “It's awfully nice, after so many years, to finally finish over .500.”

A few days ago, Bell told the players during a pregame meeting that it's important to uphold the legacy of the teams that won the NL East title in 1990, '91 and '92. Bell also told them it's time to go places those teams never reached.

“We failed,” said Bell, the starting shortstop on those playoff teams. “We failed to get further than the NLCS. So our objective as a team ... each of these players wants to win the World Series. Pittsburgh's not the City of Champions for nothing. There's a higher, bigger meaning than just getting over .500. We don't want to be mediocre. We want to be great.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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