Cole helps Pirates even series at 1-1
ST. LOUIS — Gerrit Cole lived up to his Thursday vow to “pitch angry,” and Pittsburgh is heading back home happy.
The rookie right-hander limited the St. Louis Cardinals to two hits and a run over six powerful innings on Friday as the Pirates evened their best-of-five National League Division Series at 1-1 with a 7-1 win at Busch Stadium.
Pittsburgh now gets the next two games at noisy PNC Park, starting Sunday with its ace, Francisco Liriano, going up against the Cardinals’ Joe Kelly.
For that, it can thank Cole, the top overall pick in the 2011 Major League draft out of UCLA.
Throwing 100 mph fastballs as late as the sixth inning, Cole walked just one and fanned five. His only real hiccup came in the fifth when Yadier Molina drilled a leadoff homer to right-center, one of the few times that a sellout crowd of 45,999 had a chance to cheer.
“I just tried to stick with my game plan and do what I’ve been doing the last month,” Cole said. “Move the fastball around, mix in some off-speed pitches, don’t try to get too crazy.”
Cole entered the postseason with four straight September wins, fanning 34 over 26 innings. He simply kept that roll going against a lineup that had abused A.J. Burnett in a seven-run third inning during Thursday’s 9-1 win.
Cole only pitched from the stretch twice — in the first after Carlos Beltran‘s one-out double and in the sixth after issuing a one-out walk to Matt Carpenter. Each time, he retired the next two hitters.
“Dynamite from pitch one,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Cole. “He pitched with intent, conviction. He executed. Angles of the breaking balls, good location with the fastball, very aggressive.”
Meanwhile, Pedro Alvarez jump-started the Pittsburgh offense, contributing to the first two rallies. He smoked a ground-rule double to left-center in the second and scored when Cole, batting after Jordy Mercer was intentionally walked with two outs, stroked a single to center.
An inning later, Alvarez lined a two-run homer over the center field wall, plating Justin Morneau for a 3-0 lead.
It was simply another big day in St. Louis for the Alvarez, who’s clouted 11 homers — counting playoff games — the last two years against Cardinals pitching.
“I know you have to bring your A game every time you face these guys,” Alvarez said. “They don’t make too many mistakes so you have to take advantage when they make one.”
Lance Lynn made enough mistakes to knock him out by the fifth inning, when Pittsburgh extended its lead to 5-0.Marlon Byrd followed Morneau’s one-out double with one of his own, followed by a walk to Alvarez. Russell Martin greeted reliever Seth Maness with an RBI single.
Lynn gave up seven hits and five runs over 4 1/3 innings, walking three and fanning six. It was the fourth straight postseason start in which he didn’t get past the fifth.
“I thought Lance did a pretty nice job early,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “The only time he got into trouble is when he didn’t control the counts.”
The Pirates tacked on single runs in the seventh and eighth.
Martin’s sacrifice fly scored Byrd, who reached when third baseman David Freese misplayed a popup into a two-base error, to make it 6-1 in the seventh.
Starling Marte cracked a leadoff homer off Shelby Miller in the eighth to finish the scoring.
Matheny is hopeful his team can crack the code against Liriano, who has held them to 10 hits and two runs in 23 innings, winning all three times he’s faced them.
“We’ve had some matchups with some guys that have had success against us in the past,” Matheny said, “and they’re able to get past what the projections are and just play the game. So that’s what I’ll be encouraging.”
NOTES: Matheny announced Friday that he will start rookie RHP Michael Wacha opposite Pittsburgh’s Charlie Morton in Game 4 of the NLDS on Monday. Matheny cited Wacha’s recent starts, which include a near no-hitter Sept. 24 against Washington, as his reason. ... Another factor could have been the struggles of Miller against the Pirates, who beat him four times this season. Against everyone else, Miller went 15-6, winning more games than any Cardinal rookie since Dick Hughes notched 16 in 1967. ... Pittsburgh made a change in its Game 2 lineup at shortstop, opting for Mercer over slick-fielding but poor-hitting Clint Barmes. Mercer hit .285 with eight homers and 27 RBIs in the regular season, and was 1-for-3 Friday.