PNC Park couldn’t have asked to be dealt a better starting-hand. When the baseball world looked at their Friday night cards, pocket-aces appeared in the form of right-handers Shelby Miller and Gerrit Cole.
The only obstacle keeping the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ crowd and the St. Louis Cardinals‘ faithful from giving this full-tilt matchup it’s undivided attention was the one-hour rain delay combined with the constant checking of their smartphone updates on the regular season debut of Masahiro Tanaka, north of the border. That had the makings of being the potential river-card equalizer.
This was more than just a rematch of the 2013 NLDS, one that left a bitter taste in the Pirates’ mouth, particularly Cole, who’s now on a mission the shake the ghosts of taking the hill in that division series’ Game 5 elimination.
Miller on the other hand, remained haunted by Three-River city last season, posting an 0-4 record, while being rocked to the tune of a 5.32 ERA, a .319 BAA, and the monstrosity of allowing 39 batters to reach base in 22 innings pitched.
Still, talent trumps tribulations when it comes to these two young guns, who find themselves on the fast-track to stardom. Both employ the rare combination of when a pitcher’s stuff resides in the same conversation as the intangibles they bring to the table.
However, only one succeeded in conquering its demons on this night, as Cole displayed a masterful performance surrendering only two base on balls in seven innings, a clockwork display of his 2.1 B/9 of 2013.
Expect Miller to own a sublime bounce-back effort, the combination of command and power pitching is an undeniable one. Pedro Alvarez might just hit 50 jacks this season, but when you are able to multiply your home run total by five to figure out your end of the year strikeout numbers, Miller will have the last laugh in that one on one matchup.
These two franchises are on a collision course to once again represent the NL in the postseason and battle for supremacy once again. Cole is locked and loaded from the jump, but with the performance of Michael Wacha now taking precedence over the once forefront Miller, Shelby can only work on his inevitable leap back to the top.
The classic pitcher’s duel the baseball world wanted and expected did not take place, but perhaps it will strike in Game 7 of the NLCS this time around.