This was exactly what you needed from Gerrit Cole today. He came in and shut down the Cubs and the Pirates were able to put together just enough offense to get the job done and now are again in a tie for first place in the NL Central. It's a great time to be a Pirates fan.
What you may, or may not, realize is that Cole is evolving into a top of a rotation starter right in front of our eyes. His last start he went toe-to-toe with Yu Darvish and won and today he went against a pretty weak Chicago lineup and asserted his dominance to give just enough time for the Pirates offense to come out and get some runs. Today he went seven innings and gave up five hits, walking three, and striking out seven. It doesn't seem like a great line but Cole really controlled the game from the start. He is starting to get into the groove and while I don't think he was completely ready for MLB action when he came up he has picked it up on the fly and seems like this is where he is figuring it out. When he figures it out watch out, he is going to be a monster in the coming years. The signature of this game was in the seventh inning when the Cubs got runners on second and third with one out while they were up 1-0. The way the Pirates offense was going it could have been tough for them to comeback from more than one down but all Cole did was strike out Dioner Navarro on a 96 mph fastball on the black then getting Starlin Castro to ground out to end the inning. That is big time and there is no two ways about it.
With Wandy Rodriguez being shut down for the season that pretty much means that Cole is going to be in the rotation and if his last 10 starts are any hint into what he is going to do then I am more than OK with that. Over his last 10 he is striking out over a batter per inning while only walking 14. He is getting ground balls at a great rate and while he might not go as deep into games as you might like he is giving you great outings which is what I care about. Getting to watch the evolution of Cole has been a fun thing to do and I think we are right in the middle of him figuring it out.
The Pirates offense didn't really do a whole lot for most of the game but they were finally able to get to Scott Baker in the sixth inning. Baker did a pretty nice job of keeping the Pirates at bay but in the sixth inning Jose Tabata went deep to dead center to tie the game at one and then an inning later Marlon Byrd made up for Clint Hurdle being completely asleep* at the wheel (again) by going deep for the winning run. It really was just awesome. The Pirates didn't pound the ball around the field but they got done what they had to in order to get the win.
The Pirates finish up the series tomorrow with Francisco Liriano on the bump. The Reds won tonight and the Cardinals lost so the Pirates are again in a tie for first place in the NL Central and winning tomorrow would be a great spot to be at the halfway point of an eight game home stand.
* - Clint Hurdle again let Justin Morneau hit against a left handed pitcher late in the game with the score tied and Gaby Sanchez available. If Sanchez isn't going to be used in that situation that he shouldn't be on the team. This is a reason why Hurdle is a bad in-game manager. These types of things will lose the Pirates game against teams that aren't the Cubs.