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In one sense, what Gerrit Cole did today isn’t surprising.
The NL rookie of the month in September, the Pirates right-hander has proven himself at this level.
He took the mound at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, went toe to toe with Yu Darvish and stopped a four-game Pittsburgh losing streak with seven innings of shutout baseball.
He can hang.
For the Pirates to avoid going home trailing two games to nothing in the National League Division Series, they needed a good start from Cole.
They got it.
Cole stifled the St. Louis Cardinals in a 7-1 Pirates victory in Game 2 of the NLDS at Busch Stadium today, evening the five-game series at a game apiece in advance of Sunday’s Game 3 at PNC Park.
Cole saw first-hand Thursday what the Cardinals’ lineup is capable of.
Friday, he prevented them from getting off the ground.
After a one-out double in the first inning, Cole retired 11 consecutive batters. That streak ended when Yadier Molina homered to lead off the bottom of the fifth.
Cole then retired the next three batters in order. He did not walk a batter until he had one out in the sixth inning.
Cole allowed only two hits across six innings and the one run on the Molina homer.
In that sixth inning, Cole put on a show.
Pinch-hitter Adron Chambers hit a long fly ball that McCutchen caught with this back to the center-field wall. The one-out walk to Matt Carpenter brought Carlos Beltran, who doubled in his first at-bat, to the plate. Cole threw Beltran four of his five pitches, including a 100-mph fastball, before striking him out looking on a 98-mph two-seamer that ran back over the inside part of the plate.
He hit 100 again in the next at-bat against Matt Holliday and Holliday grounded out to end the inning.
Lance Lynn couldn’t keep the Pirates away from the outfield wall. Extra-base hits undid him. He allowed five runs on seven hits, including a home run and three doubles, in 41/3 innings.
Lynn also struggled to pitch deep into the game in his two previous postseason starts, in the 2012 NLCS against the San Francisco Giants. He allowed four runs on five hits in 32/3 innings in Game 1 last year and four unearned runs on four hits in 32/3 innings in Game 5.
A defensive miscue helped put the Pirates on the board first.
With one out in the second inning, Pedro Alvarez hit a fly ball to left-center field, but Jon Jay broke in first and the ball sailed over his head for a double.
With two outs, Lynn intentionally walked Jordy Mercer to face Cole, who singled up the middle. Alvarez scored, ahead of an almost-perfect throw from Jay, and the Pirates led, 1-0.
Lynn hit Starling Marte to load the bases, but Neil Walker grounded out to end the inning.
Still, the Pirates forced Jay to throw 40 pitches, 21 of them strikes, through two innings.
Alvarez saved Jay the trouble of picking the right route to the ball in the third inning. After Justin Morneau singled and narrowly avoided being doubled off on a lineout, Alvarez lined a homer to dead center field that gave the Pirates a 3-0 lead.
Morneau lined an opposite-field double in the fifth. Marlon Byrd’s high fly ball bounced off the right-center field warning track between Jay and Beltran and into the stands for an RBI double.
Lynn walked Alvarez, who had already homered and doubled in the game, and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny removed him. Reliever Seth Maness allowed an RBI single to Russell Martin, giving the Pirates a 5-0 lead.
David Freese’s error on a sky-high pop-up and Martin’s sacrifice fly extended the Pirates’ lead in the seventh, as did Marte’s leadoff home run in the eighth.