Pittsburgh Pirates' Gerrit Cole pitches to San Francisco Giants left fielder Nori Aokiin in the first inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Fred Vuich)
PITTSBURGH — Although they lived in different centuries, Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole can relate to Mark Twain, who once stated that “reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.”
Although Cole led or was tied for the major league lead in wins for more than three weeks, the fact that he hadn’t recorded a win in his last four starts and hadn’t gone seven innings in any of them had folks wondering – Is he hurt? Has he pitched too many innings?
Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle was even asked about that before Cole took the mound Saturday afternoon against the Giants in a nationally televised game.
“Gerrit’s fine,” Hurdle said. “He’s in a good spot.”
Cole then backed up his manager's claim by pitching seven innings, allowing just three hits and an unearned run before exiting the game with the lead.
He didn’t get the win in what became a 3-2 Pittsburgh walk-off win, but Cole answered, for now, some pitching questions as he lowered his ERA to 2.49, fifth lowest in the league.
“Gerrit’s entire body of work was better,” Hurdle said. “He was using all four of his pitches and his execution was better.
“We have a higher watermark for him with the pitch count. I felt comfortable letting him bat in the bottom of the sixth, and he still had what he needed in the seventh.”
In that seventh, Cole walked the first batter and allowed an infield hit before getting a double play and striking out Marlon Byrd to end the inning.
When Jung Ho Kang hit his second home run of the game in the bottom of the seventh, Cole was in line for the win, but the Giants scored in the eighth against Joakim Soria to tie the game. The win went to Mark Melancon, thanks to Starling Marte’s walk-off home run in the ninth.
“We played hard ball,” Cole said. “We played great defense, and we were up against the wall. I needed to make pitches. I flirted with fire in the sixth and seventh, but we were fortunate to get out of them.
“Leake (Giants starter Mike Leake) is always tough on us and the pace of the game elevated the intensity of each pitch. There was no letting off the gas.”
Although Cole is an intense competitors on the mound, he also enjoyed the game for more reasons that just the Pirates win.
In the top of the second inning, San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford hit what should have been a home run into the left field seats but Starling Marte caught the ball instead.
Making that more enjoyable for Cole is that he is engaged to Crawford’s sister and he was asked if that catch may come up at the wedding.
Cole smiled as widely as he ever does in an interview before answering, “It will probably come up a few more times. It was nice, that was a good one to rob.”
It was a good day to answer questions, too.