PITTSBURGH — Gerrit Cole is rolling. The Pirates starter had his sixth straight quality start and finished seven innings for the first time this season while striking out eight Milwaukee Brewers in a 2-1 win on Saturday.

Cole has had some good stretches throughout his major-league career, but he’s in the midst of one of his best. In his last six starts, he has a 2.37 ERA and has 40 strikeouts compared to eight walks.

The underlying numbers continue to get better, as well. Cole started the season with an unsustainably high HR/FB rate that still hasn’t completely normalized. His BABIP is .254, which is part of the reason his FIP of 3.83 is higher than his 3.14 ERA. But Cole also has his ground ball rate all the way up to 48.3 percent.

Travis Barnett has written about how Cole has leaned on the slider more at times this season, but on Saturday, it was the changeup that Cole used as his most deadly weapon. He threw it 22.7 percent of the time compared to 12.87 percent on the season and 5.66 percent for his career and it was certainly working. It had an absurd 30.4 percent whiff rate and Cole leaned on it more as his start went on.

“We were just able to locate it and strike with it in situations that ended up being advantageous,” Cole said. “(Francisco Cervelli) did a great job behind the dish keeping the sequences fresh. Fortunately today, I executed a handful of pitches in key situations.”

“He had a lot of good stuff going on,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “The fastball was live. It had good finish. He mixed his pitches extremely well.”

There have never been questions about Cole’s stuff and it seems that he’s completely over the health issues that plagued him in 2016. In fact, he credited the ability to come to the park every fifth day and not have to worry about anything other than his next start as a reason for some of his success.

“It’s been nice,” he said. “It was actually nice to start the year with all day games for a while. It was like I threw day games for two months. It was great. Now we’re in night games. It’s been simpler to get into a rhythm. You’re always looking to get back out there to keep that feel. That’s been helpful.”

The one thing that has dogged Cole somewhat throughout this career has been the ability to shake off some adversity on the mound. He got a heaping of that Saturday, as the Pirates’ offense did a Bad News Bears impression, running out of runs in the second inning and failing to score a run with the bases loaded and no outs in the sixth.

But Cole just kept doing his thing.

“Really good to see him compete and continue to stay in control of things he was in control of and not let him let the game get away from him” Hurdle said.

“We did a good job as a team of not letting that affect us,” Josh Harrison said. “Gerrit did a good job of going out and continuing to do what he’s done, which kept us in the game. As many opportunities as we had, I knew we’d be presented with more.”

HARRISON A HERO

Harrison was presented with more opportunities, as he came up with Gift Ngoepe on third base with one out in the tenth inning. Harrison hit an walk-off, RBI single to give the Pirates a victory, the seventh walk-off hit of his career.

“I was looking for something elevated that I could hit to the outfield,” he said. “I kind of fell into it because Gift did a job of getting the inning started and getting to second base then (Jose) Osuna did his job by moving him up. They set it all up for me.”

WATSON GOES TWO

Tony Watson pitched scoreless innings in the ninth and the tenth, going two innings for the first time since 2015.

“After fighting through nine innings, I just went to Watson and said, ‘Can you give us one more?’” Hurdle said. “He’s been very efficient and he looked good again tonight.”

Watson’s ERA fell to 0.73 on the season, while his FIP remains all the way up at 4.73. Watson has always outperformed his FIP thanks to very high ground ball rate. He’s had some traffic on the bases with a 1.45 WHIP, but he’s minimized that throughout his career with a high number of double-play balls.

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17 COMMENTS

  1. I would not trade Cole during this season. But face facts, if he pitches well, he will be priced out of the Bucs market. Me I offer him 4 years at say 60 million and see if that works. The suggestion is to consider what kind of package he would bring. That extension for Cervelli with his injury history was not the most prudent thing for NH. Just this is what happens when you make decisions that are limited due to financial constraints.

  2. Everyone is tradeable for the right deal. Cole for Sanchez and Frazier would work. Actually If Cole continues his good pitching this year, he will be a great asset to get a return that would be roster changing. The key is Glasnow. If he can develope into the near ace this year, then yes his contractual control is far better at this point. PS, not the Cubs however.

    • I have a hard time with these discussions, would be great to understand what the Yankees are willing to give up and same for us, Cole, without that information we will never get it, it is just guessing…. I do know that Sanchez and Frazier is a nice package, but not nearly good enough where we sit today… A proven young starting pitcher, like Cole, with control, worth way more…

  3. What happened in the second inning? I’ve seen the replay, but I was out with friends, so there was no sound.

    • Cervelli on 2nd with one out. Jaso hit a deep fly ball to the notch in left. Cervelli headed back to 2nd to tag up but the ball fell in for a double and Cervelli could only advance to 3rd. No urgency to tag up because if the ball was caught, there would have been two outs. Then on the next batter, Jaso got doubled up off of 2nd on a line drive to the left fielder. Can’t make those base running mistakes, especially with how we’re hitting with runners in scoring position.

  4. IF the Pirates are out of contention when the trade deadline approaches, let’s see then what teams in contention are willing to give up to get Cole. Until then, just enjoy watching him in black & gold.

  5. Cole will be traded, don’t worry, at some point folks, for obvious/clear reasons…. This isn’t like my thought at the end of 2015 wanting to trade Cutch based on my belief that things could gradually go down hill, I never saw this coming (the degree of the slide down), he goes 0 for his first two at bats today, we sit here on the second week of May with him at the Mendoza line, the Mendoza line is .215, not .200…. Lets back get to Cole, the young man is becoming more and more significant, not like he wasn’t in 2016, and the first year of arb is ok financially… NO real need to panic, lets see where the team is once the troops come back, some who are close (Freese/Frazier), some with a clear date (Marte), and maybe someone who we have no clue about the timing in 2017 or beyond (Kang)… it is worth a deep breath and hats off to Cole to looking like the real deal, again…

  6. By the way On mlb trade rumors site there seems to be a discussion building of Gerrit Cole to the Yankees however it’s a joke to see the return that is being discussed it’s like Cole is being valued as a Midling starter

  7. This is true but do we really want to lose cole or is there a chance that we negotiate with Boras and get a deal done it’s not impossible to think that we can sign a contract with Cole considering all the circumstances of his performance injuries. I think you could do something 4 years 75 mm? That should at least be a good starting point

    • Of course, nothing is impossible in the world of baseball, but which of these seems more improbable — Boras diverting from his taking players to free agency at the first possible chance, or Nutting actually opening an offer at close to twenty million a year? I just don’t see either of those happening.

    • I don’t believe you keep Cole for 18+ a year. Maybe you go 6 or 8 years and that might be something to look at, but California is very inviting to him. Everyone that means anything to him is out there.

  8. If I remember correctly (likely not) Tim did a post a few years ago about Cutch’s WAR and how it was nearly impossible to find a trade scenario that could replace his value. I’m intrigued by what Cole as an All-Star with a couple of years left value might bring. Seems like he might nearing the top of his trade potential.

    • The Pirates are currently 2 games out of 1st place on May 7th, and you’re talking about trading away our Ace? Seriously?!!!!

      How about we continue to enjoy watching him pitch wearing black n gold every 5 days and root our Bucs on to victory? This is by definition what a fan is supposed to do.

        • Agreed that it early to talk trade but we’re looking at a very young club that’s developing this year. On top of that we’re a .500 +/- club that doesn’t have prospects to dangle around to repair current damage. To me this team doesn’t have that wow factor to put them over the top. Cole might be that one person to change all this. Get used to hearing Cole trade talk. New York is already starting to buzz about it.

    • Almost three years of control and Keller multiple years away, anyone viable in Indy will be at least until year end and lack Cole’s upside. Seeing how hard pitching free agency has been I don’t see it. It would have to be a lopsided return for the bucs and I’m not buying the idea that they can’t gut it out until reinforcements arrive/veterans get off the hump/top prospects develop.

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