Wildcard Game Starting Pitcher? Give the Ball to Cole

Clint Hurdle and the Pirates already know what they’d get from Cole in terms of demeanor in a one-game knockout.

photo by dave arrigo/pittsburgh pirates


In his last start Gerrit Cole did what the Pirates needed him to do, which is what he’s been doing pretty much all season long, which is precisely what he was brought here to do in the first place.

So why is a potential third consecutive appearance in the National League Wild Card Game seemingly generating more apprehension than anticipation among Pirates faithful?

It probably has a great deal to do with what had taken place in the Bucs’ second consecutive appearance in the National League Wild Card Game last Buctober.

That’s when San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner dominated the Pirates in an 8-0 drubbing that didn’t appear to be as close as the final score might have indicated given Bumgarner’s nine four-hit, 10-strikeout, shutout innings.

That was way more than Edinson Volquez and the Pirates could handle.

Sometimes, it works out that way in a Wild Card Game.

But this being baseball, nothing is preordained.

Hadn’t one and all been reminded of that absolute in Buctober of 2013, when Francisco Liriano and the upstarts that snapped the franchise’s two-decades-long losing streak beat the Reds? When brand-name Johnny Cueto literally dropped the ball?

Jake Arrieta and/or Jon Lester are looming as the opposing arm that figures to be monumentally difficult to navigate this time around, as this year Bumgarner. Arrieta had a record of 19-6 through his first 30 starts this season and had authored a 0.95 ERA since the All-Star break. And Lester has a career record of 3-0 and a career ERA of 0.43 in the World Series.

Hey, nobody said this was supposed to be easy.

But what Cole reminded one and all of on Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles is that a Wild Card matchup against the Bucs, either at PNC Park or at Wrigley Field, wouldn’t be easy for the Cubs, either.

Cole allowed three runs and six hits over seven innings, walking none and striking out nine in willing the Pirates to a much-needed series victory over the Dodgers. It wasn’t his best outing of the season, but it was representative enough amid difficult circumstances to continue to inspire confidence that Cole would be able to deliver even more if and when the stakes are raised.

Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Pirates/Dave Arrigo

Clint Hurdle and the Pirates already know what they’d get from Cole in terms of demeanor in a one-game knockout.

They’d get a guy sweating intensity, one who’s maniacally committed to dominating the opposition, one who personifies in appearance, attitude and approach exactly what you’d want from a pitcher amid the pressure of a winner-take-all situation.

And what’s not to love about that?

It’ll guarantee the Pirates nothing if and when it comes to that.

But if you’re a Pirates fan, you should still be willing to enthusiastically take your chances with a guy who ought to be winning his own World Series games and ought to be in the conversation for his own Cy Young Award someday, perhaps someday soon.

The goal all along was to win the NL Central Division and avoid the Wild Card game the Pirates now appear destined to play.

The disappointing aspect of that is the 90-60 record the Pirates had sculpted through 150 games was good enough to be leading every other division in either league, just not the division the Pirates needed to be leading.

The frustrating aspect of what’s transpired is, thanks to the St. Louis Cardinals, the situation isn’t likely to change over the final 12 regular-season games.

As they say in the Pirates’ clubhouse, “So what? Now what?”

That’s the appropriate Hurdle-ism when it’s the response that matters most of all.

So what? Now what?

Give the ball to Cole.


Categories: Mike Prisuta’s Sports Section