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Gerrit Cole’s time of year

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SOUTH HILLS – Gerrit Cole likes saving his best for last, apparently. At least the last quarter of the season.

Remember last year when Cole was solid but not spectacular the first three months last year after his call-up? Cole and manager Clint Hudle were asked ‘Where were the strikeouts from the former No. 1 overall pick with the 1o0 mph fastball?’ Well, Cole showed us where they were in September 2013 when he struck out nine at Texas when matched up against Yu Darvish on Sept. 9 – for win No. 82 – which was the beginning of a impressive final month of the season when C0le went 4-0 with 10.97 Ks per nine and a 1.69 ERA.

While it’s not quite September, Cole was as good as we’ve seen him since last September on Tuesday night.

Cole was masterful against the Cardinals, not allowing a hit until there were two out in the fifth. He struck out nine as he showed solid command of an elite fastball and good feel for a changeup and slider. His curveball command was hit-and-miss. This is the guy we saw last September, and this is the guy you expect when you’re selecting 1-1. The Cole of last fall was the kind of arm that helped carry a team. It’s the type of arm the Pirates so desperately lead now in this dogfight for a wild card.

The velocity concerns are gone, remember his velo had dipped before going on the DL and late in some rehab starts. Cole hit 99 mph on his 97th pitch Tuesday.

Cole at times flashed a wicked slider and he is often favoring  either the slider or the curveball depending on his feel. Imagine if he gets a consistent feel for both down the road?

Hurdle was pleased with Cole’s changeup.

You also have to like the mound presence and competitiveness. It still amuses me that Cole slaps his hands in disgust when he does reach base safely as a batter. He’s so competitive.

Cole’s only gripe was that he wished he was more efficient with pitches, though missing bats will pile up pitch counts.

Cole got some help….

(Though that help might be costly as McCutchen left the game with rib discomfort.)

,… but  Cole didn’t need much help.

The only black mark was really through no fault of his own (though Cole was perhaps over-zealous in wanting to keep competing). Hurdle should have never brought him out for the seventh.

Cole threw only 100-plus pitches in two starts last season and hadn’t thrown 100 plus pitches in a start this season since June 3 – when he was hurt – so it was surprising to see Hurdle send him to the mound to the 7th, having already thrown 100 pitches.  So of course the first two batters reached  in seventh and both scored as the bullpen blew another save and had to be bailed out by Ike Davis’ bat.

But in a second half where the Pirates have dealt with so many injuries, Cole’s re-emergence is an absolute critical happening.

-TS

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