Cole pitches Pirates past Cubs
The moment never has seemed too big for Gerrit Cole this season.
On the night of his big league debut in an electrified PNC Park in early June, Cole seemed as cool and calm as any player on the field. This September, in the midst of a rare postseason chase for the Pirates, Cole has pitched more like a veteran than a rookie overcome by high-stakes baseball.
Cole led the Pirates to a 2-1 win Saturday night over the Cubs before another charged crowd, the 19th sellout of the season (37,534), tying the single-season PNC Park mark set in 2001.
Jose Tabata and Marlon Byrd hit home runs for the Pirates.
“There's a motor running in there that's hot,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Cole. “He's found a way to keep the heartbeat slow.”
Cole (8-7, 3.33 ERA) has improved in the second half of the season, his growth accelerating in September. In three September starts, Cole has a 1.35 ERA and has won back-to-back outings, each following a Pirates loss. Five days after his best start of his career, when he threw seven shutout innings and struck out nine Rangers, Cole did not allow a run after the first inning and struck out seven Cubs in seven innings, allowing five hits.
Strikeouts were once a concern regarding Cole. But the UCLA product is averaging 9.45 strikeouts per nine innings in September as his strikeout rate continues to climb from 4.1 strikeout rate in April to 7.3 in July and August.
The change is in the quality of his slider, which has become a swing-and-miss pitch. Four of his strikeouts came via the pitch.
Cole has continued to maintain his velocity throughout the season, showing no signs of fatigue despite having thrown 173 1⁄3 combined innings across Triple-A and the majors this season. His strength is a reason he's not headed for a Stephen Strasburg shutdown and could figure into the postseason rotation.
The moment has never seemed too big for Cole, but one of the greatest challenges of his young professional career has been staying in it. Too often earlier in his career Cole had allowed a poor pitch or poor play behind him to affect his next offering.
But in the pivotal seventh inning Saturday, Cole remained in the moment. With the score tied at 1-1, Cole began the inning by walking Brian Bogusevic and then allowing Welington Castro to single. A Darwin Barney sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third with one out. Rather than allow frustration to affect his next pitch, Cole struck out pinch-hitter Dioner Navarro on an elevated 96 mph fastball. His 101st pitch of the game was a 97 mph fastball that Starlin Castro beat into the ground to end the inning.
“There's been a few times along the road where I've been like ‘Oh (expletive),' ” Cole said of his rookie season. “But that happens to everyone. You have to be tough out there because you're not going to be perfect.”
Cole kept his emotions restrained until he walked off the mound after the Castro groundout, slapping his glove several times before raising it to cover his mouth and a visceral scream.
“The kid is establishing himself out there,” Hurdle said.
In the bottom of the inning, Byrd homered to right-center off Cubs reliever James Russell to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Man dies in jump from Route 130 overpass onto passing tractor-trailer in Hempfield
- Starkey: Penguins’ season impressive so far
- Chick’s Bar in McKeesport catches fire
- Penguins a love affair for Evancho sisters
- Firefighter hurt in 3-alarm fire at Jefferson Hills restaurant
- None hurt in Duquesne house fire
- Singer Joni Mitchell hospitalized in Los Angeles
- Pirates’ search for division title rests on starting rotation’s health
- Consol Energy files for IPO of coal spin-off
- Hornqvist’s net-front presence with Penguins could be valuable asset
- Pirates again approach Polanco about contract extension