Gerrit Cole set to face off against hungry Cincinnati Reds club

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After falling to the Cincinnati Reds 5-2 on Opening Day at Great American Ballpark, the Pittsburgh Pirates are set to rebound behind right-hander Gerrit Cole – who is set to break out in a big way in 2015.

This spring, Cole pitched to a 3.24 earned run average in five outings spanning 16 2/3 innings – right in-line with how he’s performed in Grapefruit League action in years’ past. However, after allowing opponents to bat .286 against him in 2014 spring action, the righty limited opposing hitters to a minuscule .216 mark this year – a sign of things to come (hopefully).

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Against the Reds in his career, Cole has a 4.15 ERA in two starts. He’s never won a start against Cincinnati, but he’s allowed 13 hits in 13 innings – although he has notched 15 strikeouts. In those pair of starts, he’s averaging 10.9 strikeouts per nine – again, a promising sign for Pittsburgh.

Monday’s loss to the Reds was disappointing – especially with center fielder Andrew McCutchen clubbing his first home run of the season – but left-hander Francisco Liriano pitched well, striking out seven in seven innings of work during which he allowed two runs and just two hits.

Last season, the Pirates’ right-hander pitched well down the stretch, making a career-high 22 starts for Pittsburgh in his sophomore season, pitching to a career-high nine strikeouts-per-nine in 138 innings of work.

He had just one bad month during the 2014 season – June – when he struggled to a 5.59 ERA in a pair of starts for the Bucs. Cole bounced back, pitching strong late in the year as the Pirates made a run into the postseason for the second consecutive season – behind strong pitching and a potent offense led by McCutchen.

First pitch for Wednesday is slated for 7:10 p.m. ET at Great American Ballpark.

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