Man, the taste of victory is sweet indeed.
After Gerrit Cole led the Pittsburgh Pirates to an Opening Day win at PNC Park on Monday afternoon against the previously-undefeated Detroit Tigers, expectations are peaking for a Bucs team that some experts pegged to win it all in 2015.
And for good reason.
Cole is averaging just under 12 punchouts in his first two starts – notching 14 strikeouts in just 11 innings of work, to go along with his four earned runs – good enough for a 3.27 earned run average. Granted, that could be improved – but it’s right in-line with his career mark of 3.49.
His season debut against the Cincinnati Reds back on April 8 left plenty to be desired, as the NL Central rival connected for three runs in just five innings against Cole, but he bounced back in a big way on one of the biggest stages this afternoon.
Allowing just one earned run in six innings of work, the right-hander showed why the Pirates chose him in the first round back in 2011 draft. The Detroit offense has been one of the best in all of baseball early on – with former Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera leading the way – but Cole made short work of this club all afternoon-long.
The hard-throwing righty set down the first five batters he faced before Nick Catellanos lined a single to left in the top of the second. Cole bounced right back, retiring Alex Avila on a ground ball to end the frame.
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That’s when he really kicked it up a notch, setting down the next eight Tigers batters before issuing a walk to Avila. Again, Cole bounced right back, retiring the next batter before Detroit could even attempt to get a rally going. The righty’s sixth – and final full inning was also a 1-2-3 frame, but that’s when he ran into trouble.
The seventh inning opened with a single off the bat of Cabrera and J.D. Martinez drew a no-out walk to put men on first and second for the Tigers, trailing Pittsburgh 2-0. After a visit from Ray Searage, former Boston and Oakland outfielder Yoenis Cespedes singled to center field, loading the bases and ending the day for Cole.
Long story short, the bullpen did its job, surrendering just one run in the frame – keeping Cole’s outstanding start intact and lining the righty-hander up for his first win of the 2015 season.
For Pittsburgh fans, it was a near-perfect day. The Bucs picked up a big win over an annual title contender, the offense produced a trio of homers – including another blast from Pedro Alvarez – and Cole was utterly lights-out.
This season, for the Pirates to take that next step and go from being a Wild Card contender to an NL Central favorite in a division, Cole has to be dominant like he was on Monday on a regular basis.
If Opening Day’s start was a sign of things to come, it may be time to hoist another flag atop the flagpoles at PNC Park – a division pennant.
But for now, let’s savor a sterling start from our young ace.