The sign in the stands read “Gerrit Cole For President!”
After pitching six-plus solid innings in his 2013 major league debut for the Pittsburgh Pirates that included retiring 13 batters in a row and knocking in two runs with a single in his very first major league at-bat, Gerrit Cole can do whatever he wants in Pittsburgh.
The 22-year-old immediately became a fan favorite before even taking the field as the normal meager Tuesday night crowd swelled to 30 thousand-plus to watch the rookie pitcher lead the Pirates to an 8-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants. Manager Clint Hurdle set the tone just before the game when he said, “He’s (Cole) going to make a difference here.”
That he did. The energy level in the stadium was off the charts as Cole took the mound for his warm-up pitches. It wouldn’t be a stretch to compare him to Roger Clemons in size, as well as demeanor. The Pirate faithful hope the similarities don’t end there and translate into the same level of performance. That remains to be seen, but the bar has been set.
Striking out the first big league batter he ever faced on three consecutive mid to high-90 mph fastballs, Cole turned on the mound and grimaced after lead-off hitter Gregor Blanco waved at the last heater, as if to say, “see, I told you I belong here!” Displeased after being sent to AAA to start the year for more seasoning, the same determined expression crossed his face after he singled in the bottom of the second inning to give his team an early 2-0. “See, I told you I belong here!”
So he does. Cole won’t be going anywhere except to his new Pittsburgh living arrangements as he awaits his next start this Sunday against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Pitching before a group of 20 or so family and friends in the stands that included his mother, Cole pounded the bottom of the strike zone consistently with fastball after fastball, keeping the Giants’ hitters uncomfortable and on the defensive for most of the game. While giving up seven hits, as well as getting nicked for two runs in the seventh, Cole energized the crowd as well as his teammates, who played stellar defense while banging out 12 hits, including two homers.
All and all, it was a more than successful debut for a projected number-one pitcher and a city hungry for a winner.