Apr 24, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Cole (45) leaves the game in the eighth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Lucas Duda is by most measures the best hitter in the Mets lineup, or at least the biggest RBI and power threat. Slashing .294/.387/.494 on the year with six home runs and a team-leading 1.5 WAR, Duda is a bright spot in an otherwise light-hitting Mets lineup. Yet Gerrit Cole cared not. Cole took it to Duda with passion and fury, striking the slugger out three times as part of an 0-for-4 night.
The three Duda strikeouts each were unique in approach. In the first inning, Cole attacked Duda with straight heat, throwing three straight fastballs for strikes, averaging 96.6 MPH. In the fourth inning, Cole mixed it up, launching a 98.8 MPH fastball to setup Duda to look especially foolish in swinging and missing at two sliders. Cole mixed in a sinkers as well in the at-bat. While Duda showed a bit better than his first inning folly, Cole, along with Chris Stewart, showed great savvy in showing Duda something different from the previous at-bat, and it kept Duda off-balance enough to pretty much neuter his power. In their last confrontation in the seventh inning, Cole went back to the heat, launching two four-seamers that averaged about 98 MPH. In this frame, Duda was hapless and helpless, as he only offered at one pitch, a curveball that had a filthy horizontal break of 7.91 and a vertical break of -2.15.
When we step back and look at Cole’s approach to the opposing team’s best hitter, there is a ton to like. One could point to Cole’s first-inning approach against Duda as setting him up for later at-bats by using only the fastball to maximize his breaking pitches later when he might need them more. Then in the other at-bats, that early success with the fastball kept Duda guessing enough that he was never really a threat. If you are still looking for evidence that Cole is becoming a pitcher rather than than a hurler, look no further.
Now, let’s look at the Mets plate discipline against Cole, or lack thereof.
Next: Mets enjoy the chase