The cheers when Gerrit Cole toed the mound at PNC Park Tuesday night seemed appropriate. The fans likely didn't expect to serenade Cole again as he stood on first base, triumphantly flashing a 'Z' toward the Pirates dugout.
But Cole's wowing of his audience became a theme for the night.
Cole was a pitching coach's dream. He threw strike after strike and worked off his fastball, which sat around 95 mph and touched 99. He did not walk a batter. Cole earned the win in his major league debut, an 8-2 Pirates victory against the World Series champion San Francisco Giants at PNC Park.
Before Cole's start, the 22-year-old said, he wasn't nervous. Then, he was nervous about not being nervous. As he walked from the dugout to the bullpen minutes before the game began, he said he thought about pounding the strike zone.
"Just be aggressive," he said. "You can't say enough about putting hitters on their heels when the count's always 0-1 or 1-2. It's huge. It cuts down on the swings, makes mistakes stay in the ballpark."
Cole (1-0) allowed two runs on seven hits in 6 1/3 innings. He threw 59 of his 81 pitches for strikes and, at one point, retired 13 consecutive batters.
"The tempo was good, his pace, his focus," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Down in the zone, he maintained, all the way 'til the end."
Cole's debut dovetailed with the Pirates' success in the opening third of the season, as they chase two teams in the strong Central Division despite owning one of the best records in the National League. Cole, the Pirates' top prospect, joined the organization as the first overall pick in the 2011 draft. The Pirates selected there because of their major league-worst 57-105 record in 2010. Two years after the Pirates drafted Cole, his first win moved the team to 38-26 in mid-June.
James McDonald, Jeanmar Gomez and Wandy Rodriguez are on the disabled list, so, for now, Cole joins A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Jeff Locke and Charlie Morton, who will come off the DL to start Thursday, in the starting five.