Cole throws first complete game in 10-1 Pirates victory
July 27, 2016 11:32 PM
Andrew McCutchen is congratulated by his teammates after hitting a three-run homer against the Mariners Wednesday night at PNC Park.
Pirates right fielder Sean Rodriquez makes running catch on ball hit by Mariners outfielder Aoki Norichika.
Gerrit Cole is congratulated by catcher Francisco Cervelli after pitching a complete game against the Mariners.
Andrew McCutchen hits three run homer against the Mariners.
Gerrit Cole is congratulated by manager Clint Hurdle after pitching complete game against the Mariners.
By Bill Brink / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Josh Harrison usually pays more attention to the opposing starter’s pitch count than that of his teammate, but he stole a glance at Gerrit Cole’s number in the ninth inning Wednesday night at PNC Park.
“I think I saw like 82,” Harrison said. “I was like, aw, we’re good.”
Using efficiency as his main weapon, Cole pitched his first career complete game, a 10-1 victory against the Seattle Mariners. In nine innings, he allowed one run and three hits, and he struck out six without walking a batter.
“It was good,” Cole said. “It’s a really good feeling.”
Cole threw 20 pitches in the first inning, then needed no more than 13 in an inning the rest of the way. Six of his nine innings required fewer than 10. He threw 93 pitches, 69 for strikes.
The crowd began to sense he would go the distance when he batted in the eighth, cheering as he approached the plate. Robinson Cano reached on an error with one out in the ninth, but Harrison initiated a game-ending double play from the ground. Cole threw his hands up after the final out.
“He earned the opportunity,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “There’s no flat-out way I can take him out of that game.”
The Pirates had 14 hits, seven for extra bases. Andrew McCutchen went 3 for 5 with a home run, a double and four RBIs. Jordy Mercer went 3 for 5 with a double, Jung Ho Kang drove in four runs, and Starling Marte and David Freese each had two hits.
“Good pitches to hit,” McCutchen said. “… A lot of times, we hit pitcher’s mistakes. I got a mistake to hit tonight.”
When Cole is right, he’s a difference--maker. The Pirates lacked his services from mid-June until after the All-Star break due to a triceps strain. He scuffled in his first start back, but has looked like himself in the past two — two runs allowed, with one walk and 13 strikeouts, in 15 innings.
“Even his last start, he asked me how he looked,” McCutchen said. “I said, ‘Bro, you looked pretty darn good.’ And then [Wednesday], he looked even better.”
Cole neutralized a Mariners lineup featuring six left-handers and a switch-hitter among position players. He changed their eye level with high fastballs and low curves.
In the first, Cole escaped a bit of a jam. Norichika Aoki led off with a double and Cole hit Cano. Kyle Seager grounded into a forceout and Adam Lind struck out on a curveball to end the threat.
Aoki and Cano were the only Mariners to reach scoring position until the sixth. Cole retired 13 of 14 batters between the first and the fifth, with Seager’s one-out single in the fourth the lone exception.
Cole’s defense helped him all game. When Freese bobbled a grounder in the third, he flipped the ball behind his back to Cole, who barehanded it and stepped on the bag.
In the seventh, three plays contributed to a perfect inning. Harrison was perfectly positioned in the shift to field Lind’s grounder; Sean Rodriguez made a running catch on a fly ball at the warning track; and Kang dived to stop a hard grounder down the line, then made a strong throw to first for the final out.
Rodriguez made a diving catch at a full sprint in right-center field to end the eighth. The defense helped keep the pitch count low, as did Cole’s good command of his two-seam fastball.
“It’s something that doesn’t happen that often,” Harrison said. “It’s something that’s very big for the bullpen, and big for him, and big for us. Any time we can go out and have our starting pitcher go through a lineup like that, it gives us confidence coming to the plate and being on the field and knowing that if we put a couple runs across, he’s going to be that much tougher to hit.”
The Pirates are 52-48 and begin a series in Milwaukee after a day off today.
“I feel like we’ve laid the groundwork,” Cole said. “We’re definitely in a position to make a push here. We haven’t played our best baseball yet. Our guys are way healthier than we were in June. Also, it’s that time of the year where some guys just start to turn it on.”
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @BrinkPG.
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