CINCINNATI – Clint Hurdle was right. There was no easy choice in making his pitching plan Sunday. But there were those that thought he should have played the probabilities and saved his best starting option, Gerrit Cole, for their next most likely game entering Sunday: the Wild Card game. That play-in game became a reality with the loss. Now it’s a date Wednesday with the San Francisco Giants and Madison Bumgarner at PNC Park.
Cole has always been good on the big stage: from the College World Series to his debut last season to out-dueling Yu Darvish for win No. 82, and his work in the NLDS. Cole has been very good again in September. And he made his best start of the year Sunday when he tied a career best with 12 Ks and allowed one run – no walks – in seven innings. Over his last 21 innings he’s allowed five runs, walked two and struck out 27. At this point, if you could have anyone pitch a game for the Pirates it would be Cole – not Francisco Liriano.
But was Cole’s effort in vain? And was it an effort that could have been saved and stored for Wednesday? Hurdle did not have any easy choice to make but if Edinson Volquez does not deliver Wednesday it will be a decision that is second guessed. The decision was even being first-guessed.