Rookie pitches, hits Pittsburgh to victory
PITTSBURGH – Gerrit Cole wasn’t feeling nervous in the hours leading up to his major league debut. And that made him nervous.
“I couldn’t understand it,” Cole said. “It made me a little worried.”
Cole had nothing to be worried about as he took a shutout into the seventh inning and hit a two-run single in his first at-bat Tuesday night, leading the Pittsburgh Pirates to an 8-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants in front of a festive crowd.
The top pick in the 2011 draft, Cole allowed two runs and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings after being called up from Triple-A Indianapolis earlier in the day. He began his highly touted career with a three-pitch strikeout – all 96 mph fastballs – of Gregor Blanco and struck out two overall. He did not walk a batter.
“Really, I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” Cole said. “The guys played great defense and we scored a lot runs. I was able to take us pretty deep into the game and I even got lucky and got a hit. It’s tough to draw it up any better than this.”
Pedro Alvarez went 3 for 3 with a home run to back Cole. Starling Marte also homered and Andrew McCutchen and Russell Martin had two hits each.
San Francisco put two runners on in the first and loaded the bases in the second against Cole (1-0) but failed to score in either inning.
Cole then set down 13 in a row, starting with Marco Scutaro’s flyout to end the second. The Giants finally broke through in the seventh inning but the Pirates had built a 5-0 lead by then.
“There was no deer-in-the-headlight look from him at all,” Pirates second baseman Neil Walker said. “He worked quick, he worked efficiently, he threw strikes and that is all good things for a defense. He’s a lot more polished than a lot of guys who have gotten their start in the big leagues.”
Many of the 30,614 in attendance cheered every move made by the pitcher who is expected to be the Pirates ace of the future. The only time Cole seemed unsure is when he walked off the mound in the seventh inning and did not tip his cap.
“I didn’t want to draw attention to myself,” Cole said. “I just wanted to put my head down and walk off but it felt great to have all the fans cheering and giving me such a great ovation.”
Cole certainly made an impression on the Giants.
“We knew he had big-time talent and he showed it,” San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. “He had good command of his pitches, he located pretty well and did a good job of keeping us off balance with his breaking pitch to go with the fastball.”
The sizable crowd for a weekday game, though, caused problems for the organization, which instituted a new security measure for fans entering the stadium. The use of electronic wands slowed down the entrance procedure and Pirates President Frank Coonelly issued an apology during the game.
“We made the decision several weeks ago to enhance the security at the gates beginning with tonight’s game, but unfortunately we failed in our preparation and execution. We stopped the wanding procedure at the start of the game and were able to clear the lines at the gates by the end of first inning,” Coonelly said in a statement. “The experience was simply unacceptable and we will ensure this does not happen again.”
Tim Lincecum (4-6) gave up four runs – two earned – on seven hits in 4 2-3 innings while striking out four and walking two. It was the two-time Cy Young Award winner’s fourth loss in his last five starts.
San Francisco reliever George Kontos, who gave up a two-run home run to Alvarez in the seventh inning, was ejected for hitting McCutchen with a pitch in rear end in the eighth. There were a total of four hit batters in the game.
Cole snapped a scoreless tie when he lined a two-run single into right field in the second inning with one out and the bases loaded. Cole did not have hit during his two seasons in the minor leagues, going 0 for 6 with three strikeouts.
“I got totally lucky there,” Cole said with a grin. “That’s my first hit since high school. It’s been a long time and I wasn’t expected it.”
Martin, Alvarez and Walker singled to load the bases with no out. After first baseman Brandon Belt reached two rows into the stands to catch Clint Barmes’ foul pop, Cole delivered in his first plate appearance.
Lincecum was knocked out during a two-run fifth that pushed Pittsburgh to a 4-0 lead.
McCutchen walked with one and scored from first when right fielder Hunter Pence misplayed Garrett Jones’ single on a low liner for a two-base error. Jones then scored on Alvarez’s infield.
Marte’s solo home run, his sixth, made it 5-0 in the sixth.
Three of the Giants’ first four batters in the seventh had hits, including pinch-hitter Tony Abreu, whose one-out RBI double broke up Cole’s shutout bid and ended his night. San Francisco closed to 5-2 when pinch-hitter Brett Pill drove in a run with a ground out.
The Pirates answered with three runs in the bottom of the seventh to increase the lead to 8-2. Martin singled in a run and Alvarez hit his two-run homer, his 14th.
“We put some pressure on [Cole] early but we just couldn’t get the big two-out hits when we needed them,” Bochy said. “We didn’t take advantage of what opportunities we had.”
Game notes: San Francisco placed 3B Pablo Sandoval on the 15-day disabled list with a strained tendon in his left foot and recalled INF Nick Noonan from Triple-A Fresno. Arias started at third base. . Pittsburgh placed LHP Wandy Rodriguez on the 15-day DL with tightness in his left forearm to open a roster spot for Cole. RHP Charlie Morton, who had Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last June, is expected to come off the DL and pitch Thursday against the Giants in Rodriguez’s place. . Giants LHP Barry Zito (4-4, 4.06) faces Pittsburgh LHP Francisco Liriano (4-2, 1.75) on Wednesday night.