Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole makes his third career start Friday against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, Calif.
By Michael Sanserino Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- For Gerrit Cole, home is where the heat is.
Pitching in front of his hometown crowd, Cole challenged the radar gun as much as he did opposing hitters Friday night, often hitting 100 mph -- sometimes surpassing it -- to lead the Pirates to a 5-2 victory against the Angels at Angel Stadium.
Cole, who made his major league debut last week, was born and raised here in Orange County, Calif., and he attended college nearby at UCLA. He had a large contingent of friends and family in the stands at Angels Stadium, which is less than a 10 mile drive from his high school.
"He pitched like he was pitching in front of family and friends," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He was geared up a little bit tonight. There was a little more adrenaline, there was a little zip in his step."
Cole spent many summer nights watching the Angels play with his family and friends, and when the song "Calling All Angels" played during pre-game warm-ups, it finally hit him.
"I've been listening to that song since I was like 6 years old," he said. "That's when I took a step back and was like, 'Woah. This is Angel Stadium.'"
Pirates vs. Los Angeles Angels, 10:05 p.m., Angel Stadium, Anaheim, Calif.
Root Sports, KDKA-FM (93.7).
LHP Francisco Liriano (5-3, 2.44 ERA) vs. RHP Billy Buckner (1-0, 0.00).
Albert Pujols vs. Pirates pitchers. In 171 career games against his former division foes, Pujols is hitting .365 with 48 home runs.
Buckner will pitch in place of the injured Jason Vargas. Buckner went 6-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 12 starts for Class AAA Salt Lake City.
Cole was dealing in 6 1/3 innings Friday night, allowing two earned runs on four hits while striking out five batters in easily his most impressive outing thus far. And as imposing as his fastball was, he was just as effective with his secondary pitches.
He got Albert Pujols and Mike Trout to strike out by swinging over the top of his slider. And his changeup, with some deceptive movement, had batters guessing throughout the night.
"[Catcher Russell Martin] made a conscious decision to start mixing some pitches, and I went with him," Cole said.
Though he struck out Pujols twice, the one-time Pirates killer got the better of Cole in the seventh inning by hitting his 488th career home run -- and the first allowed by Cole.
And he had a bit of a scare later in the inning when he took a line drive off his left thigh. After a brief conference on the infield with trainer Todd Tomczyk and Hurdle, he stayed in the game.
But not for long.
He gave up a single to Alberto Callaspo on the next play, scoring Mark Trumbo from second to cut the Pirates' lead to 4-2, ending Cole's night with one out in the inning and the tying run at the plate. Vin Mazzaro got Brad Hawpe and Hank Conger to fly out -- Conger about 15 feet shy of a game-tying homer -- to end the threat.
Cole hit 101 mph on the stadium radar gun in the second inning, drawing some gasps from some of the 40,136 on hand to see him pitch. That was the first of a few three-digit readings from the 22-year-old former top draft pick, who now has three career starts -- and three wins -- under his belt.
"I let a few go tonight," he said.
After beating a pair of former Cy Young winners -- Tim Lincecum and Zack Greinke -- in his first two starts, Cole bested Jered Weaver on Friday. Weaver has never won a Cy Young, but he has finished in the top five in voting three times in his career.
Weaver allowed four earned runs on nine hits in six innings. He struck out two batters and allowed two home runs.
Pedro Alvarez continued a recent tear at the plate, giving the Pirates a 1-0 lead in the second inning with his 17th home run of the season. Alvarez took a full-count fastball from Weaver and dropped it 17 rows deep in the right-field seats. He is the only Pirate with more than seven homers this season and leads the team with 49 RBIs.
In the past two weeks, Alvarez is hitting .340 (16 for 47) with five home runs and 18 RBIs.
Jordy Mercer added to the Pirates' lead later in the inning with a home run of his own. With Travis Snider on first, Mercer connected with an 0-1 fastball and parked it in the Pirates bullpen beyond the left-field wall to make it 3-0.
Trout robbed Gaby Sanchez of an RBI in the fifth inning with a diving catch in the left field corner. With Garrett Jones on second base, Sanchez hit a line drove toward the foul pole in left field. Trout chased the ball down and dived, fully extending his body to snag the ball out of the air and end the inning.
The Pirates added to their lead in the fourth inning -- with an assist from the early evening California sky and the lights at Angel Stadium. With two outs in the inning, Starling Marte skied a fly ball toward center field that should have ended the inning. But Peter Bourjos lost the ball off Marte's bat, and it landed in center field as Marte hustled out a triple.
Neil Walker scored from first on the play to make it 4-0.