In a game that was close to his heart, Pittsburgh Pirates rookie pitcher Gerrit Cole literally felt right at home in defeating the Los Angeles Angels 5-2 on Friday night at Angels Stadium.
The Newport Beach, Calif., born Cole had his best start to date and displayed a fastball that topped out at 101 miles per hour – and according to Root Sports color commentator Bob Walk, a 92 mph changeup. This was all while earning his third win in as many starts to open his MLB career.
Regardless of what pitch was thrown, Cole showed great command with the exception of the seventh inning where two runs scored, including an Albert Pujols home run.
The Pirates offense picked up right where it left off Thursday afternoon in Cincinnati when Pedro Alvarez clubbed a solo home run, his 17th of the season off Jared Weaver.
The inning was not over, as the Pirates struck with some two-out lightning when Travis Snider singled and Jordy Mercer hit his fourth homer of the season to plate two more runs. For Mercer, who has seen extra time at shortstop, that was his first round-tripper since May 11.
The Pirates offense struck again in the fourth. Starling Marte connected on a triple after center fielder Peter Bourjos misread the fly ball as the sun was starting to set. Neil Walker scored from first as the Pirates gave Cole a 4-0 lead.
Cole responded favorably, setting the Angels down in order for three straight innings before finally succumbing in the seventh.
Cole has been unable to make it out of the seventh inning in his three starts. Despite striking out Pujols in his first two at-bats, the fan-proclaimed “Pirates killer” struck again with a solo home run. The homer was the first Cole allowed in the major leagues.
Cole’s response to this adversity was a four-pitch walk to Mark Trumbo. He was later hit in the thigh by a line drive and taken out of the game when, one batter later, Alberto Callaspo singled home Trumbo to cut the lead in half.
Cole’s night was over after 88 pitches and 6 1/3 innings. He struck out five batters and gave way to Vin Mazzaro who finished out the seventh and came back out to pitch a perfect eighth.
Following an Andrew McCutchen RBI double, Jason Grilli came in to close the game, and after disappointment against the Cincinnati Reds, set the Angels down in order to earn his 26th save of the season.
The three-game interleague series will continue Saturday night when the Pirates send Francisco Liriano (5-3, 2.44 ERA) to the hill against Jerome Williams (5-2, 3.14). Game time is 10:05 Eastern.