RHP Gerrit Cole was drafted #1 overall in the 2011 First Year Player Draft because he had the tools to do exactly what he did today for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cole turned the disappointment of a crushing NLDS Game 1 loss to the Cardinals into a distant memory with a dominant 6-inning performance in Game 2 to even the series at 1-1.
Stepping into the hostile Busch Stadium environment on the heels of a 9-1 loss in Game 1, Cole allowed only one run on two hits to the vaunted Cardinal lineup over six innings, throwing 86 pitches of which 56 were strikes. The Buccos staked him to a 5-0 lead before the Cards broke through for their only run in the fifth and Cole was in control throughout.
This type of performance is what the Pirates, then mired in a second decade of futility, were banking on when they used the first overall pick of the 2011 First Year Player Draft to take the big right-hander out of UCLA. The Yankees saw the same talent when they drafted Cole out of high school in 2008 with the 28th overall pick.
But it was Pittsburgh who got him and on Friday he paid huge dividends. St. Louis isn’t an easy place to pitch for a veteran, let alone a rookie. At playoff time, the sheer magnitude of Cardinal red could make a seasoned player’s eyes melt. The day after the St. Louis bats ran A.J. Burnett off the mound in 2+ innings, you would expect a veteran presence to come in and restore order, if it could be done. Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Andy Pettite, someone in that mold.
The Pirates sent Cole to the hill without hesitation and he rewarded that confidence. After going 11-7 in the regular season with a 1.168 WHIP and 2.1 BB/9 vs. 7.7 K/9, Cole was up to the daunting postseason task and he quieted the potent Cardinals while the Pirates chipped away at Lance Lynn.
It’s still early, but Cole is looking to be a brilliant use of the top overall pick for the Pirates.