I know that he's really only emerged over his last two starts, but suddenly I'm not sure that there's any Pirate pitcher that I feel more comfortable with on the mound than Gerrit Cole. Cole got into some trouble in the first inning tonight and got partially bailed out by the defense behind him, then he shut the Cubs down over the next six innings. In the first inning, he gave up two hits and a walk. In the next six, he gave up three hits and two walks, total, to go with the seven batters he struck out. He again had three pitches going, and he only got himself into one more jam the rest of the night.
That was in the seventh, just after the Pirates tied the game at one on a Jose Tabata homer, when he walked Brian Bogusevic and then gave up a single to Wellington Castill to start the inning. After Darwin Barney batted the runners over, Cole deperately needed a strikeout of pinch-hitter Dioner Navarro. After four straight sliders on the outside part of the plate to set up a 2-2 count, Cole blew a nasty 96 mph fastball past an unsuspecting Navarro for the K. Three pitches later, Starlin Castro bounced into an inning-ended groundout. Two batters after that, Marlon Byrd launched the game-winning homer into the right-center field grandstand.
With the win and the 4-1 Cardinal loss to the Brewers, the Pirates are back in a first place tie in the NL Central.
Looking at the remaining schedules can get anyone in trouble for putting too much stock in how they appear to stack up. The starting pitcher match-ups are so so important and those are difficult to determine for the next 2+weeks. That being said, I wouldn't want the St L schedule although some experts say they have the easiest of the 3 (Pirates + Redlegs) . After having pesky Seattle one more time, the Cards go to Denver for 4 games, then to Milwaukee for 3 before heading home for 3 vs the washnats. Then they get a day off on the 26th (same as only off day for Bucs) before hosting their rival Cubs for final 3. I'd say the Redlegs might have it much better. After one more in Milwaukee on Sunday they go to Houston for 3, then an off day before heading to Pittsburgh for the Pirtaes final home series of reg season. Then Redlegs go home to host the little Metsies for 3, another off day and then the final 3 at home vs the Bucs. Those off days look nice for the Reds until you realize they may want more games to play, not fewer. Cincy is 3 games back in the loss column and you can't make up those losses. Most of you Pirates fans know the upcoming layout of games for the Bucs. Beating the Padres at PNC is utmost and then playing even or better vs Redlegs. The 3 game series in Wrigley (Mon-Wed, Sept 23-25) vs Cubbies could be great fun. The first 2 are night games before the Cubs wrap up their home season with a daytime game on the 25th. I'd love to be there. Then it's off to Cincy for the last 3. Wouldn't it be great if the Bucs had the luxury of setting up their rotation for the playoffs that weekend and could rest a few starters? If Cutch is in the hunt for a batting ave title I wonder how that might affect Hurdle's lineup card. ? I love important September baseball.....