Gerrit Cole vs Jose Fernandez. That was the matchup today. One was a first overall pick in the 2011 draft. The other was taken 13 picks later. Both have progressed to the point where they look like they could be future number one starters. Unfortunately for the Pirates, Fernandez looks like he might already be there.
The young right-hander dominated the Pirates lineup for two runs on five hits in eight innings, setting a career high with 13 strikeouts. He threw 97 pitches, 74 strikes, and was sitting in the upper 90s with his fastball, while keeping the ball down in the zone.
“That was an impressive outing for him, and impressive outing for our guys,” Clint Hurdle said after the game. “As you watch the landscape of the game evolve, you’re seeing some really encouraging athletic skills from some of these younger players that are up.”
Cole had a good start, but he was quick to say after the outing that it wasn’t good enough. He gave up three runs on four hits and two walks in seven innings, with a career high eight strikeouts. The deciding factor in today’s game was the fastball he left down the middle to Giancarlo Stanton, which Stanton hit for a solo homer.
“The home run was a bad pitch, and he deposited it like he should have,” Cole said. “The one inning with the seeing eye hits, that’s just the way it goes. Those were some good pitches. But the one to Stanton, that’s just inexcusable in a tie ball game.”
Cole saw some trouble in the fourth inning, giving up two runs and throwing 29 pitches. He gave up a walk, then two seeing-eye singles, followed by a sacrifice fly to bring in two runs in the inning.
The right-hander was using his slider more often today than usual. Coming into the game he had thrown his fastball 70% of the time and his slider 10% of the time. Today he was throwing the fastball 54.7% of the time prior to a visit in the mound in the fourth inning right after the two singles. Following that visit he went back to the fastball. He threw it 80.9% of the time the rest of the game, retiring 11 of his next 13 batters. The only hit allowed in that stretch was the homer to Stanton.
“Russ believed in the slider today,” Cole said of the pitch selection. “There was a decent four pitch mix. The situation kind of dictated maybe to create some ground balls or some swing and misses. He was just trying to go to the two best options we had at that point, because some of the swings they were taking on the fastball were really weird.”
It’s not that Cole had a bad outing before the fourth inning. He was very efficient in the first three innings, working mostly with the slider in the second and third. The fourth also wasn’t bad, with the lone mistake being Stanton’s homer in the sixth.
“It was good command with the fastball,” Hurdle said of Cole’s start. “He got balls down and away to right-handers with consistency, in on left-handers. It was the best breaking ball he’s had all season…With the exception of the one inning where he threw 29 pitches, all the innings were efficient.”
“The slider by far and away today had the most development that we’ve seen since he’s been here,” Hurdle later added, noting the results today were about Cole’s confidence in the pitch, which he hasn’t had all year.
The Pirates managed two runs off Fernandez, both in the second inning. Pedro Alvarez started things off with a single, followed by a double by Russell Martin to bring in Alvarez all the way from first. Martin later scored on a two-out RBI single by Clint Barmes, giving the Pirates a 2-0 lead at the time.
From there, Fernandez shut things down. He struck out the side in the third inning, and continued on to his career best 13 on the day. He struck out 11 of 19 batters from the third inning through the eighth inning, and only allowed two hits in that stretch. He also struck out the side in the fifth inning, then had two more strikeouts in the sixth.
The Pirates tried to put something together in the ninth against closer Steve Cishek, getting runners on first and second with two outs. However, Cishek got Garrett Jones to ground out to end the game, giving the Marlins a 3-2 win.
**Wandy Rodriguez threw yesterday, but said he felt some pain in his elbow. He felt better today, and said after the game that the plan is to throw from 60 feet tomorrow.
**Travis Snider was placed on the disabled list prior to the game with left toe discomfort. Hurdle said Snider had been playing with the discomfort for a while: “He’s been playing for about a month with it. He’s tried different things. We tried to work through to eliminate the pain, the discomfort.”
**No starter has been named yet for Game 2 of Tuesday’s double header. The Pirates plan to make the decision when they get back to Pittsburgh.
**I asked if the three catchers on the roster were healthy enough to allow the Pirates to use Tony Sanchez off the bench, or Russell Martin elsewhere on the field. Hurdle didn’t give an answer, wanting to preserve a competitive advantage over other teams.