Cole's quality start propels Pirates over Diamondbacks
Prior to the Pirates' 6-2, series-opening win over the Diamondbacks on Friday, manager Clint Hurdle said the club's goal was to have Gerrit Cole available to pitch in October.
The Pirates have a workload limit set for their prized rookie but have not revealed the innings threshold. Cole had his previous start skipped to reduce his innings total.
The No. 1 overall pick from the 2011 draft continued to pitch like an arm the Pirates might want to have fill a significant role in the postseason, should the club advance.
With the Pirates coming off a 1-5 road trip and with the Diamondbacks just six games out of the final wild card spot entering Friday, the Pirates needed a quality start from Cole to halt the negative momentum. The rookie delivered, allowing two runs and five hits over six innings, recovering from a rocky fourth to improve to 6-5.
“That's why I was (upset) out there after the fourth inning,” Cole said. “It's my job to shut them down.”
With the win, the Pirates restored their three-game lead over the Cardinals, who lost, 7-0, to the Cubs.
Cole said it was a challenge to regain a feel for his off-speed pitches on eight days' rest, but it's a prospect he might face again this season as the club tries to reduce his innings.
“I feel good. It's tough to kind of get that feel for the breaking ball,” Cole said. “I threw some good ones. I threw some ones where I probably wasn't totally committed. That's the challenge with eight days (rest). It's not an excuse. It's something I have to attack because it's going to happen again soon. I'll learn from it.”
After issuing his only two walks to back-to-back batters with one out in the fourth, Cole threw a slider in the dirt for a wild pitch that allowed Paul Goldschmidt to advance to third and Aaron Hill to move to second. Martin Prado scored Goldschmidt on an RBI single to cut the Pirates' lead to 2-1, and A.J. Pollock tied the score, 2-2, smashing a hanging Cole slider into center field for an RBI single.
The slider ran cold and hot. Three of Cole's five strikeouts came via the pitch. In the fourth, Cole got Wil Nieves to badly swing and miss on a 92 mph slider and struck him out looking on a knee-buckling off-speed pitch.
After losing a two-run lead in the fourth, Cole got another two-run lead in the fifth — a lead he didn't surrender.
Arizona starter Brandon McCarthy (2-7) didn't miss often with location but he left a 90 mph fastball over the plate in the sixth to hot-hitting Neil Walker, who rifled the ball off the right-center field wall for a double, scoring Starling Marte, to give Pirates the 3-2 lead.
Andrew McCutchen followed with an RBI single, scoring Walker, to give the Pirates a 4-2 lead. Walker and McCutchen factored in the Pirates' first two runs, scoring on a Pedro Alvarez single in the third.
Cole was efficient in the fifth and sixth as he had been in the first three innings.
“He was able to settle down and find his best command and finish strong,” Hurdle said. “He was able to regroup and recapture. He's still learning and growing. All these experiences are going to make him better.”