The Pirates bullpen closed out Gerrit Cole's magnificent postseason debut Friday against the St. Louis Cardinals, with their own brand of getting it done.
Three batters reached base on two hits and a walk from the seventh through ninth innings, but all were stranded.
"We were fired up behind [Cole] all game," said Mark Melancon. "He's a competitor. As the situation gets more intense he rises to the occasion. It's fun to be behind him and watch, to get in there and follow him up."
Tony Watson closed out the seventh inning after giving up a leadoff single to Matt Adams.
Melancon set the Cardinals down 1-2-3 in the eighth on just seven pitches.
And Jason Grilli, who regularly hit 94 and 95 mph with his fastball, struck out Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina looking and got Jon Jay swinging with a fastball, stranding Adams on second to close the game.
The bullpen entered the postseason with the second best ERA in baseball and, by all accounts, is rested and ready.
"Like Clint always says we're just trying to bridge the gap between the starter and closer," said Watson.
Pitching coach Ray Searage said Grilli's fastball velocity told him one important thing -- a very encouraging thing.
"Looked like his old form today," said Searage. "That's the biggest thing. He's healthy and he's back. That outing right there shows me he's got some good arm strength. The breaking ball was sharp, the fastball had some good velocity and carry. I was real proud of those guys."
Watson didn't have his cleanest outing. He gave up a leadoff single to Adams and walked David Freese, but got a fly ball out of Molina, struck out Jay looking on a fastball low and inside then got a groundout from Daniel Descalso.
Melancon, who hadn't pitched since Saturday, made quick work of pinch hitter Kolten Wong, who flied out to left field.
"In a game like this I don't think it matters if I would've pitched a month ago. Your concentration is there," said Melancon.
He induced groundouts from Matt Carpenter and Carlos Beltran before the ball was handed to Grilli in the ninth.
"Today [Mark] showed his sinker, it's starting to evolve a little bit more as opposed to a four-seam cutter guy," said Searage. "He's making adjustments because the league is making adjustments to him. Watson, same.
"But the biggest things is they came in, threw strikes and got outs."
Grilli gave up a double to Adams after striking out Holliday, but got ahead on the next two batters to get out of the inning.
His fastball velocity had been down slightly since returning from injury, but appeared back to full strength Friday.
"Looked that way, right? A lot of people are hanging their hat on how hard I throw. It's about getting three outs. No matter how hard or soft I throw," said Grilli.
All about the outs. And the bullpen got them Friday.
"Our bullpen has always been good, there's no question about it. We have every bit of confidence to back each other up," said Grilli. "Another game doing the same thing we've done all year."
Jenn Menendez: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @JennMenendez. First Published October 5, 2013 4:00 AM