On a night when I got to see Gerrit Cole pitch for the first time in person, the Pirates top prospect did not disappoint. Cole threw six shutout innings tonight against the Trenton Thunder, allowing just three hits and a walk, while striking out six batters. It was, off the top of my head, the most impressive outing I’ve seen in person from a Pirates pitcher.
In the first inning, Cole set the side down in order, picking up a strikeout along the way. There were three hard hit balls off him all night. The first one was to the first batter he faced, as Trenton’s Jose Pirela lined out to center field to start the bottom of the first. After a strikeout, Cole got a weak groundout to end the inning.
The second inning started and ended with strikeouts. Gerrit gave up his first hit of the game, a two out single to Melky Mesa, who reached out and looped a fastball tailing away from him into right field. It was more of a desperation swing than anything with authority. Cole got the second out on a grounder to Brock Holt at shortstop.
The third inning had one of his few hiccups of the game. After getting a soft groundout to second base, Cole went 0-2 on the hitter, then ended up walking him five pitches later. The next batter hit a sharp low liner right to Jarek Cunningham, who caught it on one hop and completed the easy double play. Not his best inning of the night, but things got better.
The fourth inning included a hit similar to the one in the second inning, with the batter just reaching out to make contact, serving the ball into right field. Cole got two soft groundouts, then a fly ball to Oscar Tejeda in left field to end the inning.
Taking it to the fifth inning, this is when Cole looked his best. He retired the side in order with a weak groundout and two strikeouts. The inning looked like it could have gone bad at the beginning though. Cole was missing bad in the warmups, then missed on the first two pitches, one in the dirt, the other looked like a hanging curveball up out of the zone. He looked annoyed with himself after the second pitch (someone I was with noticed that too), then went about his work in dominating fashion.
The sixth inning started off with a long double that one-hopped the left-center wall. It came from the ninth place hitter, which didn’t look like a good sign, in what ended up being his last inning of work. Cole quickly settled down, recording his sixth strikeout for the first out, followed by two easy groundouts to end the inning and his night.
He recorded nine groundball outs and six strikeouts in his six innings, throwing a total of 82 pitches, 53 for strikes. He works quickly out on the mound, pounding the outside lower corner of the strike zone all night. He threw the same fastball to the only lefty he faced, keeping him off the plate as it tailed into the batter. The balls hit off him were weak, he broke numerous bats and got plenty weak swings, and swinging strikes. It is everything you want to see from a pitcher, including the velocity and a couple righty batters flinching on breaking balls. Almost everything hit off him was hit to the opposite field. The Trenton batters were constantly late all night. An extremely impressive night to say the least.
* Cole left with a 1-0 lead that quickly disappeared on the first pitch from Hunter Strickland to Zoilo Almonte for his 13th homer of the year. Before the inning was over, Hunter had allowed another run, which was unearned due to an error from Brock Holt. A hard grounder to the right of the shortstop was booted, as he tried to play it from the side instead of getting in front of it.
* Oscar Tejeda made quite a first impression. In his first AB of the game, he lined a home run to straight away left field, just over the fence about 350 feet away.
* Holt reached base three times, two walks and a single, raising his average to .323, which ranks him first in the Eastern League. He also stole his 11th base of the year.
* Six players in the Altoona lineup each collected one of the team’s six base hits. Not among them was Adalberto Santos, who went 0-3 with a walk. Santos made solid contact on a fly out to right field. He was the DH and batting third. Matt Curry went 0-4