The lasting image of Gerrit Cole's first major league start wasn't when he drove in a run, but a pitch he threw to the first batter he faced. With two strikes and Gregor Blanco at bat, Cole reared back and delivered a fastball with the high heat Pirates fans had been waiting for ever since he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2011.

Blanco swung right through it, and Cole owned his first career strikeout.

Gerrit Cole just gets better and better. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

It's now been over three months since that debut, and Gerrit Cole is not the same pitcher we saw when he emerged from the minor leagues. And that's a good thing.

"He’s grown, he pays attention and he competes," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He’s shown up, as we’ve all seen, big time down the stretch."

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