MIAMI – Two of the best young pitchers in baseball will take the mound tonight at Marlins Park, as the Pirates send Gerrit Cole out to take on Jose Fernandez. Cole enters tonight’s start with a 2.53 ERA, while Fernandez carries in a 2.82 ERA. Fernandez actually has the stronger numbers, with his 2.53 xFIP and his 13.4 K/9 showing off his dominance. Cole hasn’t pitched as well as his ERA has indicated, with a 4.03 xFIP and a 7.4 K/9.
There’s no questioning the skill of either pitcher though. These types of games always look like a classic pitcher’s duel beforehand, although Clint Hurdle notes that they don’t always turn out that way.
“I wait to see how the game unfolds, because I’ve come into some of these and the game has gone just as you expect it to, and it’s 1-0 or 2-1 and they’re making plays, they’re making pitches,” Hurdle said. “I’ve seen some games where one guy is out by the fourth… I think, like everybody else, we’re excited about the opportunity to compete against Fernandez, because he’s one of the best in the game.”
Fernandez has been one of the most dominant pitchers this year, ranking first among 102 qualified starters in K/9 and third in xFIP.
“Right on right, he’s tough. Velocity is firm and finish. The spin is real,” Hurdle said. “Left-handers seem to have better looks. We’ve only got a couple of them. I can’t get Liriano in the lineup. So we’re going to go at him, we’re going to stay with our game plan. We can get him if he makes some mistakes. We’ve got to hit him. You don’t want to miss the fastballs that you get early that are out over the plate.”
The Pirates have one of the best offenses in the game this year, ranking first in the NL in wOBA, wRC+, and second in WAR. But Hurdle pointed to this past weekend’s game against Yu Darvish as an example of how a top pitcher can shut a good offense down.
“He’s one of those dynamic guys, that if he gets his best game, it could be very similar to what we saw with Darvish the other day,” Hurdle said on Fernandez. “You’re not going to beat a good pitcher with his good stuff. The best you can do is hope to get nothing. You get nothing, your guy gives up nothing, and you play until those guys come out.”
While Cole’s advanced metrics haven’t matched his ERA, he has been strong lately. In his last four starts, he has a 1.04 ERA, although this also comes with a lower strikeout rate and a 4.12 xFIP. The low strikeout rate can be chalked up to a start in Colorado when he didn’t record a strikeout in seven innings. The other three starts saw a strikeout per inning, and an xFIP under 4.00.
Even if Cole hasn’t had his best stuff this year, this type of game is fun to watch, as it’s rare to see two young aces going up against each other.
Jeff Locke Reactions
Hurdle had high praise for Jeff Locke’s complete game last night, along with the performance from the offense and the defense.
“All in all, that may have been the best game I’ve ever watched in a Pirates uniform,” Hurdle said.
The performance was good to see from Locke, not just from a stats standpoint, but from a personal standpoint. Locke has faced inconsistencies and struggles throughout his career. He entered the season knowing that Pirates fans didn’t want him in the rotation, and entered last night probably knowing that the Pirates have several guys in Triple-A who could take his job soon. Hurdle mentioned that the entire team was happy to see Locke have that outing, after everything he’s gone through.
“When he came up that tunnel and came into this clubhouse, there was more joy on those men’s faces in that clubhouse than there was on his face, and there was a lot of joy on his face,” Hurdle said. “That speaks to the culture and the environment that these guys are creating, and they’re owning for one another. And they know what Jeff’s been through as best as they can. Only Jeff knows the road that he’s traveled, and the shoes that he’s walked in. However, his teammates have compassion, they have empathy, because they deal with it in their own situations from time to time.”
One side benefit to last night was that it gave the bullpen a night off. A.J. Schugel got up in the ninth inning, in the event that Locke couldn’t finish, but he didn’t get hot. The night off gave everyone some needed rest after the group had been overworked for most of the first two months.
“The bullpen is in a very strong spot right now. So that was a big help moving forward.”
Here is the Pirates lineup for tonight’s game.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.
Guys I don’t want to see in one game wildcard/ add fernandez to list. Nasty. I actually think darvish is nastier though
Luckily that team will not be good any time soon
Cole leaking again. 1.65 WHIP for the game. GSc 45. Got out of a few jams, but tempted fate once too often.
Hurdle subject to questioning on leaving Cole in to uncork that WP. Might not have mattered as Mattingly likely leaves Jose in if only up 1-0.
Disappointed in Cole tonight – he didn’t pitch poorly, but he was a lot more hittable and was thoroughly outpitched by Fernandez. Cole didn’t have to face Stanton, yet he couldn’t dominate the Marlins lineup. Cole has been kind of a tease – he can look like the dominant #1 that he should be on a consistent basis, yet other times he looks very ordinary.
Fernandez is better than cole and was better tonight
I was at the game with a seat behind home plate (amazingly cheap at Marlins Stadium) and Fernandez was the better pitcher last night, but Cole battled well and should of have been out of the seventh with one or no runs. A ball was hit to Mercer that I thought was going to be a double play, but ended up getting by Mercer. Later in inning a ball got by Cervelli on a walk and the ball bounced back right to Cervelli. For some reason Cervelli hesitated before throwing to Cole and the runner barely slid in safe. The third run scored on a potential double play that Harrison couldn’t get ball out of glove. All three plays could have been made which would KD have resulted in no runs.
I agree – and he looked it tonight. Still disappointed in Cole – Fernandez faced a much tougher lineup than Cole faced tonight….
OK – I am officially pissed off and will not be renewing…
“He entered the season knowing that Pirates fans didn’t want him in the rotation, and entered last night probably knowing that the Pirates have several guys in Triple-A who could take his job soon”
The ONLY Pirate fans who did not want Locke in the rotation were those that thought they should have the performance of Cole from their #5 starter – I – and several others recognized that in today’s baseball a pitcher like Locke who costs a team $3M a year is not awful – if you guys thought he should have been dumped/waved shame on you…
During the winter I posted several fact based analysis that showed Locke was actually a low 3 -high 4 starter for the Bucs.
I want the great Ray Searage who so many here seem to worship to get Locke back to the half season form that found him on the All Star team. The screwed with his mechanics and it did not seem to be working – perhaps last nigh everything clicked and he is on track.
I really don’t understand you guys some times – if Locke can stay serviceable for the rest of the year then Huntington can keep Glasnow at Indy all year and not start his service time clock until June of next year – isn’t that what we are trying to do – maximize years of control?
Winning a World Series would cost too much and we know enough of the fans are “settlers” – happy with one and done wild card appearances.
The least “valuable” pitcher on this staff right now is Liriano – when are you going to start advocating doing something drastic about that train wreck.
Fan bases universally dislike their back of the rotation starters, because they are all flawed and for some pointing out failures and flaws is the point of watching sports.
But you are overselling Locke, 143 pitchers have thrown 250 innings from 2013-15, and Locke ranks 111th by runs allowed WAR, by just ERA he ranks 109th. That isn’t a number #3 pitcher. His All-Star year was built upon a .228 BABIP, in the first half.
People are free to spend their money as they choose, but I’d find reading a bunch of opinions that I already agreed with quite dull.
So let me get this straight…
1. I’ve been saying for years that Locke belongs in an MLB rotation, only to be told by the majority of Pirates fans that he is a Triple-A starter and shouldn’t be pitching for the Pirates.
2. You apparently agree with that assessment.
3. The Pirates changed Locke’s mechanics, and I wrote that it wasn’t going well in Spring Training.
4. You also don’t think it’s going well.
5. I wrote a fact, that Pirates fans didn’t want Locke in the rotation, and that he’s close to being replaced by the Triple-A guys.
6. You say that you’re not renewing.
So basically, you agree with me on Locke every step of the way, but you’re not renewing because I pointed out that there are a lot of Pirates fans that don’t like Locke? I don’t get this.
#5 is the problem – had you said SOME fans I would have let this go – but you implied ALL fans – and as i stated in my post some of us fans can see value in using Locke as a #5 starter and not trying to bring up 3 rookies this year – yes I was being a bit snarky about the years of control thing – but that is a benefit of being able to keep a guy at Indy for the rest of the season that you and Huntington agree may not be quite ready – I disagree on that – but we will all know how ready he is when he finally arrives – this year or next…
The point of the line was to show Locke’s situation and how good the complete game was for him. If we want to get technical, the large majority of Pirates fans want him gone and didn’t want him back. I didn’t think the small minority of Locke supporters would take offense to such a meaningless comment.
What is your reason for not renewing? Because others have opinions that are not like yours? Because you’re 70 and would sell your soul to the devil for a WS ring?
His reason for not renewing is because everytime he threatens w it(and it’s not the 1st time), he gets an automatic response from Tim. The only thing that makes sense Tim is that Brucey can’t get by w/o you!
I respond to him even if he doesn’t threaten not to renew.
Hope Cole has a great game but if I was betting I would take the Marlins. Hope I am proven wrong.
Tim: I stated that Nicasio and Locke are heading to the Pirate BP soon, but his performance last night could make him trade bait as a 4th or 5th SP for a team. He has had 10 Starts so far and 8 of them have been excellent – in those games he has averaged over 6 innings a game with a 2.60 ERA.
Since becoming a SP for the Pirates in 2013 he has 91 Starts, and a record of 29 – 27. He gets hit, walks too many, and drives people crazy, but he knows how to hang in long enough to win, and that is a quality that is probably as important as anything else.
Nicasio leaves the Rotation first, and then probably 2 weeks later, Chad Kuhl and Josh Bell will ride the bus from Indianapolis just in time for a long homestand
I’m not sure why Tim is so steadfast on Locke in the pen….I just don’t see it at all.
I wouldn’t call 8 of 10 Locke starts “excellent”. Only one was. Only six resulted in a game score >50. So four of the starts were below average with two of those stinking.
Still, that’s fine for most teams. And if he continues to pitch closer to those six good to great games than the other four stinkers, then he’ll probably add more value than any of the AAA guys, so why trade him? Bring up one of Taillon/Kuhl and let the other two iron out whatever remaining kinks there are.
I don’t think the Cubs rotation will all be in the top 50 by end of year. One or two will regress – not to mention it’s exceedingly rare for a five man rotation to stay healthy all year. Not going to say Bucs will catch the Cubs… but also not saying they can’t.
Not sure about Bell….Where does he play? I don’t see them bringing him up for a spot start here and there and pinch hit opportunities.
They bring him up, he will play 1B and Jaso will become our LH bat off the bench. Freese will spell at 1B/3B and be bench strength, although I think there will be teams asking the Pirates if he is available.
Can CH explain to Starling Marte that we should be trying to make Fernandez throw more pitches so that we can get to the Marlin BP. He had no jump and got thrown out by 6 feet trying to steal. Sometimes his grasp of situational baseball leaves a lot to be desired.
I believe its time to get you on the reality bandwagon Mr. emjayinTN. Taillon comes up in less than 2 weeks. Kuhl who I can see now lapping Glasnow can be up as early as the trade deadline but it’s nothing to stress about right now and HE WON’T TOUCH THE BULLPEN! He might not even come up this year if Neise/Locke perform like they have lately!
Now to Josh Bell where you’re not grasping the fact that he’s not coming up unless WE ABSOLUTELY TANK! Jaso will hold the fort down the rest of the year and Freese is not helping Bell out either! If anyone comes up after Super 2 and I WILL CALL THIS, it will be ALEN HANSON who will take over for Cole Figeoura bc of his super utility role and better bat over Cole!
No flipping chance does Bell come up and Jaso sits….
Jaso is projecting to be a 2.1-2.2 WAR 1b. That’s the best the Bucs have had since 2009.
Unless he falters dramatically, I don’t see a need for Bell at this point. I know everyone is excited to have him come up, but the goal is to play well into October. I don’t Bell helps that equation with Jaso not only getting on base, but also throwing serious leather.
Yup…love Bell…but he’s not going to push Jaso out of his spot.
Five years from now, I think we’ll all be laughing at how awesome Bell is and Jaso will be out of the sport…but, for now, Jaso is the better player.