No mystery: Cole's effectiveness bested Cards
Facing rookie for first time, club points to quality pitches, not only unfamiliarity
ST. LOUIS -- The Pirates and Cardinals have now played each other 21 times in 2013, though Friday's Game 2 of the National League Division Series still presented one unknown for St. Louis.
The Cards faced Pittsburgh rookie Gerrit Cole for the first time, as Cole made his postseason debut. He stifled the St. Louis bats, limiting the Redbirds to one run on two hits and a walk through six innings. Cole also fanned five batters.
Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina both recorded extra-base hits against the righty -- Beltran knocked a double in the first, and Molina belted a solo home run in the fifth -- but that would be all the Cardinals could manage against the unfamiliar hurler as they fell, 7-1, at Busch Stadium to even the NLDS at one game apiece.
"It is challenging, but it's not an excuse," Beltran said. "Every time you face a new guy, you go out there wondering what he's got and what he likes to do. Especially in a game like this one, where every game means a lot for us. It was a little bit difficult, no doubt about that."
Struggling against an unfamiliar pitcher isn't a new problem for the Cards. It's an issue the club has struggled with throughout the season. On Friday, however, most insisted it was Cole's effectiveness, not the unknown, that got the best of them.
"I think, obviously, seeing a guy beforehand would definitely help," said third baseman David Freese, "but we had an opportunity to go out there, regardless if we'd seen him or not, and be more effective. He just did a good job. He was confident from the beginning. I think after watching him a little bit, he's always been confident. That's what you want out of a young guy, especially a top pick like that."
Cole, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, made his big league debut on June 11 and went 10-7 as a starter, posting a 3.22 ERA. The 23-year-old became the first Bucs rookie to win a postseason game since Tim Wakefield won twice in the 1992 NL Championship Series.
"We really had no expectations going in," said second baseman Matt Carpenter, who drew Cole's lone walk in the sixth. "[We] just figured that he'd have good stuff, and he did. He made some quality pitches today, which that was the difference in the end."
Cole's impressive outing was a continuation of a strong September, in which he was named NL Rookie of the Month after going 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA.
"You saw a focused man that was ready to go," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "A couple at-bats got strung out on him -- 3-2 at-bats, you got a couple of called third strikes. There really was no give. He kept attacking them and made sure they were going to beat him with the bat. They weren't going to beat him any other way today, and he had good enough pitches today that that really didn't happen."
Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.