For all the adjectives I could use to describe Gerrit Cole’s stuff and location Friday night, I will choose “erotic.”
During the Pirates’ 5-2 victory Friday night in Anaheim, Cole pitched 100 mph or faster eight different times, including 101.8 mph once. More than half his pitches were 96 mph or faster. He threw 67 fastballs during his 88 pitches (or what I would classify as fastballs) and kept the Angels out of synch searching for answers.
Here is a rough guide to classifying Cole’s pitches, if indeed such nasty stuff can have traditional classifications. You should remember that Anaheim’s radar gun appears to measure pitches a bit faster than Pittsburgh’s does.
- Four-seam fastball (96-100 mph)
- Two-seam fastball (92-96 mph)
- Changeup (89-91 mph)
- Slider/Slurve (81-84 mph)
As efficient as Cole was, he had room to improve even there. Using the two metrics manager Clint Hurdle cites to measure efficiency: Cole retired 9 of his 24 batters on three or less and got into 6 three-ball counts. He lost his control in his last inning by allowing a four-pitch walk to Mark Trumbo. But his pitches were less hittable with a season-high 10 whiffs and five strikeouts, including two K’s of former MVP Albert Pujols and one of future MVP Mike Trout.
Cole retired his first seven hitters, then allowed two hits that could have easily been stopped. Hank Conger hit a ground ball through the hole with the infield shifted and Peter Bourjos plopped a bloop single just over the outstretched glove of Neil Walker. He got nine groundouts in total, putting him in the top-quarter of Major League starters in grounder rate so far, and retired 11 straight hitters after the two soft singles.
In the 7th inning, Gerrit Cole finally gave up his first career home run (to Albert Pujols, of course) and first career walk, showing he still has work to do in attacking hitters his third time through opposing lineups. But Cole did not have to worry about those two runs allowed that inning, especially since Vin Mazzaro stranded the baserunner he left behind.
Support to Get Cole to 3-0
For his third straight game, Cole out-pitched a former Cy Young pitcher or Cy Young runner-up. Jered Weaver left two high, mid-80s fastballs up in the zone for Pedro Alvarez (VIDEO) and Jordy Mercer (VIDEO) to homer over the fence in the 2nd inning.
That would have been enough to support Cole, but Starling Marte hit an “RBI triple” that was really center fielder Peter Bourjos losing track of a flyball. Andrew McCutchen added an insurance run in the 9th with an RBI double off Michael Kohn. Gaby Sanchez almost hit an RBI double to left as well, but Mike Trout engaged his go-go-gadget rocket legs and went full extension to rob him blind.
The Pirates’ win, capped by Jason Grill striking out two hitters for a 1-2-3 league-leading save, corresponded with St. Louis and Cincinnati losing. This is what the Bucs can be: Alvarez and Mercer home runs propping up a filthy start from Gerrit Cole. The future is now, and it looks damn sexy for the Pirates.