Gerrit Cole earned his 12th win of the season on Sunday for the Pirates. The only Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher to earn more wins before the All Star break would be the infamous Dock Ellis with 14 wins before the All Star break in 1971. Cole ties Ken Brett, who won 12 before the All Star break in 1974.
Except for an outing on June 24th against Cincinnati where the Ghost of Pittsburgh’s Past, Marlon Byrd, came back to haunt Cole, chasing him after 4.2 innings and five earned runs, he has been the definition of consistency. Cole and A.J. Burnett combine to lead the Pittsburgh staff both on and off the field.
Cole always had the potential to be the ace of the Pirates’ staff, and he has stepped up in that role this season, along the way earning himself his first trip to the All Star game. His performance on Sunday clearly showed why he is now the guy leading the Pirates’ pitching staff.
The Pirates got their second eight inning performance in as many days from a starting pitcher on Sunday. It did not come easily for Cole, though.
After a quick first inning, Cole ran into trouble in the second and third. The Indians were able to get three runs across the plate against Cole, but he maintained a level of confidence to bounce back.
“I wasn’t too frustrated,” Cole said. “They hit some good pitches, and sometimes that happens. You make your pitches and sometimes it doesn’t work, but you keep going.”
Cole was asked what type of mindset he had after letting up those runs, and he said that you have to find a way to go deep into a game after letting up early runs when you are a starter.
“After giving up runs early, you are just trying to go deep in the game at that point,” Cole said to a group a reporters around his stall. “You try to eat up some innings for the bullpen and keep the team in the game as long as you can because you never know what’s going to happen. When you start getting on a roll, sometimes your offense can come back, and you give them a chance to get some stuff together.”
And get on a roll he did. Cole retired 16 straight batters in a row after allow the third run of the game, and he never looked back. The Indians are a very disciple team at the plate, and Cole was able to locate his fastball around the plate. His fastball moved well on Sunday, and he relied heavily on it to get quick outs once he got rolling.
That’s what good pitchers are able to do. They make adjustments during the game to counter what the opposing offense is giving them. Cole recognized his strong fastball and the Indians working his breaking pitches, then he dealt accordingly.
Good pitchers also get named to All Star games, a feat that Cole accomplished for the first time in his young career. Cole is fifth in the NL with an ERA of 2.28 and tied for third (with Burnett) in FIP. He is only allowing 0.5 HR/9 innings, a number only bested by four others in the NL, including AJ Burnett at the top with an 0.2 HR/9 rate.
Let’s flash back to 2013. Isn’t it interesting that we were all talking about AJ Burnett being passed over by Manager Clint Hurdle as the NLDS Game 5 start for an up-and-coming Gerrit Cole? Surely, all hard feelings have come to past as Cole and Burnett were both named first time All Stars, the first time that the Pirates had a starting pitching duo named to the Mid-Summer Classic since Bob Friend and Vern Law in 1960.
Cole seemed to get a little emotional when asked about possibly being named an All Star on Sunday (before it was announced on Monday). He paused, put his head down, and spoke quietly.
“It would be pretty special. It would be a really cool honor, and I’d be excited.”
What’s left to be decided is who will be named the starting pitcher for the National League in the All Star Game next week. Cole has made a very strong case for the honor, as have Max Scherzer — whom the Pirates know all too well — and Zach Greinke and his 1.48 ERA.
The Pirates went years without having an ace in their rotation, and when Cole was drafted, the hope was that he would fill that spot. He’s finally doing that, performing like one of the best pitchers in the game this year, and getting recognized for that with his selection to the All-Star game.