Perhaps Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez didn’t want to give Gerrit Cole too much credit when he said, “What I’ve seen of him, he’s really good.”
Gee, Dave, you think?
But we can excuse Martinez. After all, his team has a herculean task ahead of it Tuesday night in Game 1 of the World Series against the Houston Astros and Cole, who is 19-0 since his most recent loss May 22 and set an MLB record by striking out 39.7 percent of the batters he faced in the regular season (a total of 326).
On paper and most likely in the flesh, it is one of the top World Series Game 1 pitching matchups of all time.
In fact, fangraphs.com ranks it third, behind only these two:
1. Bob Gibson and his 1.12 ERA vs. 31-game winner Denny McLain in 1968.
2. Curt Schilling vs. Mike Musina in 2001.
Fangraphs insists it’s even better than Whitey Ford vs. Sandy Koufax in 1963.
Cole’s appearance on the game’s grandest stage is a reminder of something Pittsburgh Pirates fans prefer to forget:
The Pirates traded Cole to the Astros two seasons before he qualified for free agency. Here is Cole’s five-year Pirates career in brief:
• He was the team’s chosen starter over A.J. Burnett for Game 5 of the 2013 National League Division. He was a 23-year-old rookie at the time.
• Two years later, he won 19 games.
• Two years after that, he was gone.
Which prompts the question: What other former Pirates pitchers reached the World Series wearing another team’s uniform?
Here are a few of them from this century:
Charlie Morton, Astros, 2017 — Morton never fulfilled his potential in Pittsburgh, losing 62 of 103 decisions in seven seasons.
But he was the winning pitcher in the Astros’ Game 7 victory against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2017 World Series. He worked four innings in the Astros’ 5-1 victory, allowing only two hits and striking out four.
For the final out of the sixth inning with two runners on base, he launched a pitch 99 mph to the Dodgers’ Corey Seager.
Four days earlier, Morton was the Game 4 starter, throwing 61/3 innings, striking out seven and allowing only three hits and one run. He walked off the mound with a 1-0 lead after Cody Bellinger’s double in the seventh. But he had to settle for a no-decision in 6-2 loss after Will Harris gave up an RBI single to Logan Forsythe.
Funny thing about the last four games of that series: They have a distinct Pittsburgh connection.
Former Pirate Tony Watson was the winning pitcher for the Dodgers in Games 4 and 6, Morton won Game 7 and current Pirates pitcher Joe Musgrove won Game 5 and earned himself a trip to the White House. He worked the bottom of the 10th of the Astros’ 13-12 victory.
And, by the way Francisco Liriano was another former Pirates pitcher in that series, appearing in two games and throwing 2/3 of an inning.
Edinson Volquez, Royals, 2015 — Volquez started Game 5 of the Royals’ Series-clinching victory against the New York Mets five days after his father, Daniel, died of a heart ailment in the Dominican Republic.
The day his father died, Volquez started the World Series opener. At his wife’s request, he was not told of his father’s death until after the game.
Volquez, who won 13 games for the Pirates in 2014, received no-decisions in the Series games. But the Royals won both, 5-4, in 14 innings, and 7-2 in 12.
Ryan Vogelsong, Giants, 2012 and 2014 — When the San Francisco Giants swept the Detroit Tigers in 2012, he won Game 3, working the first 5 2/3 innings of a 2-0 victory.
Two years later, the Giants needed all seven games to defeat the Royals and Vogelsong was the starting pitcher in Game 4. He gave up four runs in the third inning, but the Giants rallied for an 11-4 victory. He also pitched in relief during the Royals’ 10-0 victory in Game 6.
Vogelsong pitched for the Pirates from 2001-06 (10-19) and returned the season after the 2014 World Series at the age of 39. He had little left at that point of his career and retired after starting 14 games and posting a 3-7 record.
Jeff Suppan, Cardinals, 2004 — The Boston Red Sox swept the Cardinals in four games and Suppan was the loser in Game 3, 4-1. Suppan won 10 games for the 2003 Pirates.
Bronson Arroyo, Red Sox, 2004 — The Pirates third-round draft choice in 1995, Arroyo ended up pitching 16 years for four teams. He won 108 games with the Reds; nine with the Pirates.
While pitching for the Red Sox in 2004, he worked in relief against the Cardinals in Games 2 and 4.
Jason Schmidt, Giants, 2002 — Schmidt, who won 13 games for the Pirates in 1999 at the age of 26, started two games for the Giants. He won Game 1, even after Troy Glaus of the Anaheim Angels homered off him twice.
Schmidt wasn’t around for the decision in Game 5, but the Giants won, 16-4. His third baseman was current Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell.