Gerrit Cole will start Game 5 on Wednesday. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Gerrit Cole Will Start For the Pirates in Game Five

Gerrit Cole will start Game 5 on Wednesday. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Gerrit Cole will start Game 5 on Wednesday. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

The big question about a potential game five was whether the Pittsburgh Pirates would start Gerrit Cole instead of A.J. Burnett. Burnett struggled on the road in St. Louis in Game 1, while Cole dominated the Cardinals in Game 2. Both will be available on normal rest for Game 5 on Wednesday, and after Michael Wacha mowed down the Pirates today, there will be a Game 5.

Clint Hurdle announced after the game today that Gerrit Cole would get the Game 5 start over Burnett

“We have one game to win,” Hurdle said.  “As I’ve done and I’ve challenged the guys to do, we need to do the best we can to win that next game.  I believe that match-up is the best we can do to beat the Cardinals in Game 5.”

Hurdle is right to go with Cole over Burnett. I pointed out several reasons why Cole is the better starter last Friday. It all boils down to the fact that Cole has been dominating for the last month, while Burnett has struggled on the road, and especially on the road against the Cardinals. When you add in that Burnett was hammered at Busch, and Cole dominated, it makes the decision easy.

Hurdle said that the Pirates haven’t talked to either player about the move leading up to the game. They both threw their side sessions in preparation for the start.

“It’s a very hard decision.  It’s a difficult decision because [Burnett] has meant so much, we’ve asked so much of him while he’s been here,” Hurdle said. “It has been a very challenging park for him.  If this was any other venue, he would have gotten the ball.  But for me in this venue this game, Cole is going to be our guy.”

Cole will have a difficult matchup, going up against Adam Wainwright. If the Pirates can pull away a win, that puts them in good position in the NLCS. Burnett is a much better option against either the Braves or Dodgers. The Pirates could go with Liriano and Burnett in games one and two, then Gerrit Cole in game three. That would give the Pirates up to six starts total from those three pitchers in a best of seven series. But first they need to win game five against the Cardinals, and Gerrit Cole gives them the best opportunity to do that.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • clemente21

    The only call to make. I think AJ will a total pro about it; all hands on deck so he could face a key batter or two. As for the hitters – patience! Looking at way too few pitches. Every 90 feet taken or given is critical.

    • clemente21

      *be a total pro.

  • CalipariFan506

    Totally disagree. Not with starting Cole, but the comment about hitters being more patient. Teams are throwing nothing but first pitch fastball strikes against the Pirates because they know Pirates hitters are told to take the first pitch. Cincy has gotten us with this for a while now and St. Louis has caught on.

    • Michael McCune

      It’s a lot more difficult than it sounds, but true nonetheless: the Pirates have to be better at swinging at the good pitches and letting the bad ones go. In the bottom of the ninth yesterday Marte swung at ball four, Walker drew a four pitch walk, and Cutch swung at ball four–the bases should have been loaded with one out and PNC would have been downright delirious. Furthermore, Cutch should have been taking till he had two strikes on him either way (unless a pitch was totally grooved) so Walker could have gotten a running start on the pitch, giving him a chance to score on a gap shot or get to third on a single. When the fastball is there you have to be ready to hit, but when a closer goes to three ball counts on three straight batters, the hitters need to realize a walk is as good as a hit.

  • Faye Zbuksukcz

    Given Game 5 is an all-hands on deck situation, I actually would’ve been OK with AJ and a really quick hook if he looks out of sorts, as in curve can’t find the plate. You’d know that pretty early on. Although Cole is on “normal” mid-season rest, he hasn’t gone on only 4 days often the past few weeks – he’s usually had more than that. I partially blame Martin for Game 1 getting out of control. He could’ve told Searage/Hurdle that AJ just had no chance that day.

    At any rate, I can’t believe Hurdle didn’t talk to AJ before making this call. I would not use AJ out of the pen no matter what unless the game goes 17 innings. And if Tabata isn’t the leadoff hitter (.375/1.099 vs Wainwright), Hurdle needs his head examined.

    • Michael McCune

      Totally agree with giving Tabata a shot. We need a jolt up top. Marte and Walker are ice cold and we need to get runners on in front of Cutch. Plus, you can always go to Marte’s speed and defense later in the game when/if the opportunity presents itself.

  • smurph

    You’re not going to sub Tabata for either Byrd or Marte, so forget that. I sure hope that Hurdle was not serious when he said he would have used Burnett if the game were at any other park. Hopefully that is just stroking AJ. Cole is the clear choice – not even close.
    Not getting ahead of things, but, if the Pirates should advance, I believe game 1 will be Friday at LA. So, as Tim said, You have AJ and Liriano for the first 2 games. Kershaw would likely pitch Game 2. Morton probably deserves a start, based on yesterday’s performance, so he and Cole would pitch Games 3 & 4.

    • Andrew

      When I saw that quote I cringed, that possibly has to one of the worst reasons to chose a starting pitcher, pitcher versus venue is even more worthless than pitcher versus batter match-ups. Burnett is still a very good pitcher and making a decision on who to start based on 85 PAs at a stadium is the height of irrationality. (I am going to assume there was more data behind the decision.)

      Numbers are not very helpful here, I think you have to look at how they both pitched recently, giving the edge to Cole, but Burnett should be available out of the bullpen, warming up at a certain point. If captain of the old guard Leyland can use Scherzer out of the bullpen, no reason Hurdle cannot. Game five needs to be an all hands to the pump game.

  • leadoff

    The Cards fans probably would like about 5 guys on their team benched for not hitting in this series, but at some point you have to give the pitchers credit, good pitching usually beats good hitting, this series has featured good pitching and some bad pitching, but changing the lineup is not one of the Bucs challenges, sometimes the other team has better pitching than you do.
    IMO, the lineups are pretty even, but I believe the Pirates have more power and more speed and a better defense, the Cards are a better contact club overall, but that all goes away if the other team pitches well.

  • CalipariFan506

    No way you start Tabata. Marte could go 0-4 with 4 K and his defense is more valuable than Tabata who is a bad borderline awful LF.

  • CalipariFan506

    As for not telling AJ, I think that was right by Hurdle. AJ could have talked him out of it based on how much sway he seems to have with the manager. Hurdle didn’t give himself the opportunity to go with his heart.

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