Gerrit Cole, who oozes confidence that equals his 100 mph fastball, went from impressive rookie to superstar in the making Friday.
He's not a household name in baseball just yet, but Cole's terrific performance in the Pirates' 7-1 win over the Cardinals in Game 2 of the National League Division Series went a long way toward establishing him as one.
Some baseball players just have the ability to put aside all the noise, all the nerves, all the pressure and go out and perform at a very high level on the biggest stage. And some players don't.
A.J. Burnett falls into the latter category, based on his postseason struggles.
Less than a day after Burnett put the Pirates in a 1-0 hole with an awful outing, he and the entire club were picked up by a 23-year-old fireballer with ice water in his veins and a fantastic repertoire.
Before we look back on the particulars of Cole's outing Friday, let's look ahead to a big decision the Pirates could face between him and Burnett in a few days.
The best-of-five series is already guaranteed to go four games. If it goes five, the Pirates will have a decision to make with their starting pitcher, choosing either Burnett or Cole with the season on the line.
Let's be clear about this: There is no decision.
It's Cole. End of discussion.
Burnett's career ERA at Busch Stadium is 15.50. He just got hammered for seven runs in one inning. He clearly is not as good of a pitcher right now as Cole.
Manager Clint Hurdle cannot justify in any way starting Burnett over Cole, based on how the two have pitched either in this series or down the stretch.
If there is a Game 5 on Wednesday in St. Louis, Cole will have his usual four days of rest, and there will be no reason for Hurdle to deny him the ball in favor of Burnett.
Cole was masterful Friday, holding one of the best offenses in baseball to one run on only two hits over six innings. He hit 100 mph on his 75th pitch - only a few guys in baseball can do that - and he also had his changeup and curveball working.
Cole has worked hard on those complementary pitches, and when he's effective with all of them to go along with the blazing fastball, he truly is an ace pitcher.
And when he smacked an RBI single to put his team on the board first, well, it just showed there's really nothing the budding young star can't do.
All the Pirates needed to do was split in St. Louis, and thanks to a superb outing from their sensational young pitcher, they're now in good position to win this series.
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