It was 13 years ago when Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole sat in the stands of Angel Stadium rooting for John Lackey to win game seven of the 2002 World Series for the then Anaheim Angels. Fast forward to Sunday night and Cole was pitching against Lackey.
The Pirates defeated the Cardinals 7-1 to earn a series sweep.
In fact, Cole [16-8] hit a single off Lackey [11-9] in the top of the seventh inning which placed the Pirates in front by two runs. It was Cole’s first RBI in 2015 and eighth of his career.
Cole came into the start 2-5 in the second half and had lost his start in August against the Cardinals. This outing is the second in which he had not allowed a run and sixth where there were no earned runs.
Both teams put up zeroes until the fourth inning when Neil Walker hit a two-out RBI single to plate Gregory Polanco. Earlier in the inning, Polanco singled and Starling Marte’s single was washed away by an Andrew McCutchen double play. Walker’s single came after Aramis Ramirez drew a walk.
Cole was removed from the game following seven shutout innings. He has now pitched at least seven innings for the third time in four starts.
The offense continued against Lackey in the eighth inning scoring three runs, all by the home run.
First it was Ramirez who hit his 16th of the season. It was his 38th career homer and 147th career RBI against the Cardinals, both of which lead active players.
Rodriguez followed with a two-run home run, his fourth of the season, after Francisco Cervelli hit his 15th double of the season. For Rodriguez, it was his first home run since June 16. His homer was hit off Steve Cishek.
Tyler Lyons came on in relief in the ninth inning. Pinch-hitter Josh Harrison reached base by error and two batters later, Marte hit his 16th home run of the season.
With Joakim Soria in for the Pirates, pinch-hitter Greg Garcia led off with a double and he was batted in by another pinch-hitter in Cody Stanley.
The Pirates now trail the Cardinals by 5.5 games in the National League Central, but lead the Chicago Cubs by three games for the top NL Wild Card spot. This win is the 81st of the season for the Pirates meaning at least a .500 record has been secured for a third consecutive year.
Monday will be a quick turnaround for the Pirates as they have an early afternoon starting time in a road contest against the Cincinnati Reds. Jeff Locke [7-9 4.66 ERA] will face Anthony DeSclafani [7-10 3.87 ERA]. Locke is 3-2 with a 3.46 ERA in 10 career starts against the Reds.
Of note: A.J. Burnett threw a bullpen session prior to Sunday’s game and told reporters he felt ready to start a week earlier. A plan for his return has been put in place, however manager Clint Hurdle told assembled media that he wanted to relay the plan to his players first.
Photo credit: Jeff Roberson/AP Photo