The Pirates have officially announced that Gerrit Cole will be starting the Wild Card game on October 7th against the Chicago Cubs.
According to Clint Hurdle, this was an easy decision, and a decision the Pirates seemed to have made weeks ago by the way they planned out their rotation over the last three weeks.
“We pretty much had scripted it out when we scripted the entire back end of September,” Hurdle said. “If there would’ve been a play-in game with the Cardinals, he would’ve been eligible to pitch that game. If there wasn’t a wild card game then he would’ve been eligible for game one [in the NLDS]. It’s been in play for a while.”
This move comes as no surprise, as the 25-year old has established himself as the staff ace. Cole’s 2.60 ERA is the lowest earned run average that a Pirates’ starter has finished with since Rick Reuschel finished with a 2.27 ERA in 1985 (minimum of 100 IP). Cole also has postseason experience to draw from – he pitched in the deciding Game five of the NLDS in 2013.
“I’m just going to treat it like any other game,” Cole said. “Obviously there’s big ramifications, but it’s the nature of the business.”
Cole will also draw from his experiences of watching Pirates’ starters Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez participate in the last two NL Wild Card games. Liriano’s experience in 2013 was extremely successful – he pitched seven strong innings against the Reds, giving up only one run on four hits and one free pass. However, Volquez’s experience last season did not go as smoothly. Volquez allowed five earned runs in his five innings of work, which included three walks and a grand slam in the fourth inning.
“You’ve gotta stay aggressive,” Cole said of his approach to the game. “I thought Francisco was really aggressive. I thought he trusted his stuff, trusted his defense and went out and got the job done. Certainly went down swinging if he was going down.”
Cole continued, “I thought the grand slam was a little unfortunate [in last year’s Wild Card game]. But just goes to show you, you can’t give teams opportunities by giving them free passes. You have to minimize damage in situations.”
Cole rarely beats himself, as shown by his 1.90 BB/9. It is attractive trait to have when choosing a pitcher for a one-game elimination scenario, and a trait that most ace-level pitchers have.
“This one for me, it was cut-and-dry when we set this rotation three weeks ago,” Hurdle explained. “This is our guy.”