One day after Jameson Taillon made his Double-A debut, fellow top prospect Gerrit Cole took the mound against the Trenton Thunder. Cole had previously dominated Trenton, with 11.1 shutout innings in two starts, striking out 12 in that stretch. Today he ran in to trouble early against the Thunder lineup.
Cole labored in the first inning, giving up two runs on three hits and one walk, before escaping the inning with a strikeout. He started the game with a leadoff double, followed by a single to bring in the first run. After getting his first strikeout, Cole was bailed out by Stefan Welch at third. Welch made a diving stop on a hard hit grounder down the line, making the hard throw across the diamond for the second out. Cole gave up an RBI single for the second run of the inning, then issued a walk before getting out of it with his second strikeout.
Overall Cole threw 34 pitches in the first inning, yet he returned to the mound in the second. That inning started off rough, with a leadoff walk. The Altoona bullpen started getting active, but Cole settled down. He got a swinging strikeout for the first out of the inning, and followed that with a pop out to third. After a single put runners at first and third, Cole got his fourth strikeout of the day to escape the inning.
From there, Cole settled down. Or perhaps a better way to put it was that he shut down Trenton, since he got more aggressive in the final innings, which led to some good results. The right-hander got three straight ground outs in the third inning. It wasn’t the easiest inning, with two batters working the count and battling. Cole got the second ground out on the eighth pitch in the at-bat, and the third ground out on the seventh pitch, giving him 17 pitches total in the inning.
Cole entered the 4th inning with 74 pitches on the day, including 51 strikes. He finally had a quick inning, needing ten pitches to get through the frame, and that included a one-out walk.
Offensively, Altoona gave Cole plenty of support in the middle innings. Opposing starter Dellin Betances started struggling with his control, which led to five runs in the fourth and four in the fifth. Betances issued two walks and a hit batter in the fourth, with one of those walks, and the hit batter, coming with the bases loaded.
Quincy Latimore and Charlie Cutler broke the game open in the fifth. With Altoona leading 5-2, and two men on base, Cutler hit a two RBI double. Latimore followed that by crushing one to left-field for his 15th homer of the year, which matches his season total from last year in about 80 fewer at-bats.
Altoona gave Cole a 9-2 lead to work with when he came out for the fifth inning. He started with a walk, but followed that with two fly outs. After giving up a single on his 98th pitch of the game, Cole was removed for Jason Townsend, who got a ground out with runners at first and third to escape the frame.
Cole’s fastball was sitting 94-98 MPH on the day, and touched 100 once. His slider was 88-91 MPH, although it wasn’t as effective today. Most of that was because Cole wasn’t getting many calls on low and away pitches, which is exactly where his slider goes. His fastball command wasn’t as good today in the early innings, missing his spots and flattening a few fastballs out.
Jason Townsend was making his Double-A debut, and shut down Trenton for the rest of the game. Townsend pitched 4.1 shutout innings, with two hits allowed, no walks, and two strikeouts. He was working 90-93 MPH with good downward movement on the pitch. He threw 48 pitches, with 38 of them going for strikes, and had a 7:3 ground out to air out ratio.
Offensively, Quincy Latimore led the day, getting three hits and four RBIs, including his two run homer. Matt Curry, Ramon Cabrera, Charlie Cutler, and Stefan Welch all collected two hits in Altoona’s 14-2 victory.