June 11, 2013
Pittsburgh 8, San Francisco 2
Turning Point in the game: With the bases loaded in the bottom of the second, Gerrit Cole singles to right center field off the Giants' Tim Lincecum, plating two runs to put the Pirates up 3-0.
When the Pittsburgh Pirates made flame-throwing righty Gerrit Cole the first overall pick in the 2011 draft, they firmly believed they had selected a future staff ace that would anchor their rotation for years to come.
The future arrived on a warm Tuesday night in June that the more than 30,000 fans in attendance won't soon forget.
Pressed into service after veteran left-hander Wandy Rodriguez left his June 5 start against the Atlanta Braves with a forearm injury that ultimately would sideline him for the rest of the season, Cole came to Pittsburgh just looking to hold down the fort in a rotation that was quickly emerging as one of baseball's best.
He delivered that and more when he took the hill against the San Francisco Giants and former Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum on June 11, delivering 6 1/3 strong innings before a crowd of more than 30,000 that turned out to witness Cole's Major League debut at PNC Park.
When the gates opened, fans made a beeline for the best spots overlooking the bullpen, many standing in place for more than an hour to catch their first glimpse of Cole in a Pirates uniform. You couldn't have scripted a better opening as Cole blew leadoff hitter Gregor Blanco away with three fastballs in the high 90s to chalk up his first big league strikeout.
He looked dominant at times and vulnerable at others, but showed fortitude in pitching out of some early jams, stranding five runners on base over the first two innings without surrendering a run. The fresh-faced rookie could do no wrong. Even a routine lineout to center field in the sixth inning - albeit relatively hard hit - drew a standing ovation.
A player never knows what to expect when he makes his Major League debut - and it's probably safe to assume Cole didn't anticipate finishing the night with as many runs batted in as strikeouts.
Cole came to the plate to face Lincecum in his first big-league at bat with the bases loaded in the second inning. After working the count full, Cole smacked a high pitch over the inner half of the plate the other way that found grass between the center fielder Blanco and right fielder Hunter Pence. The single plated two runs, and Cole couldn't help but flash a grin as the crowd once again showed its appreciation.
The Pirates bats came alive in support of their newest teammate. Pedro Alvarez drove in three runs on three hits, including a mammoth two-run shot in the seventh. Starling Marte also homered, and Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones and Neil Walker each collected RBIs as the Bucs scored eight runs to back Cole's strong outing.
After hitting Gregor Blanco with a pitch to load the bases with two outs in the second, Cole proceeded to retire the next 13 batters he faced, a streak that ended when Andres Torres singled to right to lead off the seventh inning. A single and a fielder's choice put runners at first and third for pinch-hitter Tony Abreu, who chased Cole from the game with a run-scoring double down the right field line that made the score 5-1.
Reliever Tony Watson surrendered a run that was charged to Cole, who finished the night giving up two runs on seven hits, walking none and striking out two in his 6 1/3 innings, more than good enough for his first Major League win.
He would go on to win his first four starts, the first Pirate in 106 years to do so.