Partly because they were worried about his innings count, the Pirates seriously considered putting Gerrit Cole into the bullpen for the postseason. It’s a very good thing they didn’t.
Cole pitched six innings of one-run ball and singled in the first run of the game as the Pirates beat the Cardinals 7-1 to even up the NLDS at one game apiece on Friday.
It was pretty much a stress free outing for the 2011 first overall pick in his first postseason appearance. The only run came on a Yadier Molina solo homer when the Pirates were already up 5-0. He threw just 86 pitches before the Pirates decide to turn things over to the pen.
Cole’s hit came in the second with Pedro Alvarez on second base. Shortstop Jordy Mercer was intentionally walked to bring up the pitcher’s spot, but Cole, who was 7-for-34 with five RBI in the regular season, responded with a single up the middle.
The stellar performance will force a tough decision on manager Clint Hurdle if the NLDS goes five games. With two off days coming up, Cole can come back in Game 5 on normal rest. Of course, that was supposed to be A.J. Burnett’s assignment, but Burnett was torched for seven runs in two-plus innings in the Game 1 loss. Cole seems like the better bet of the two with the way he threw today.
Of course, the series still has to go five games first. The Cardinals will throw Joe Kelly and Michael Wacha in Pittsburgh on Sunday and Monday. The Pirates will use wild-card winner Francisco Liriano in Game 3 and sinkerballer Charlie Morton the next day.
Update (7:01 PM EDT): David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the deal has been completed.
ESPN’s Keith Law reported on Saturday evening that a bad contract swap involving the Braves’ Hector Olivera and the Padres’ Matt Kemp was “getting close.” Olivera has been pulled off the field, per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that only a last-second medical would kill the deal at this point, and that the Padres will be sending money to the Braves.
Kemp, 31, will have $64.5 million remaining on his contract through 2019 after this season, but the Dodgers will pay $3.5 million annually over those remaining three years, so the $64.5 million is really $54 million. The veteran has compiled a .262/.285/.489 triple-slash line with 23 home runs and 69 RBI in 431 plate appearances for the Padres this season.
Olivera, 31, will have $28.5 million remaining on his contract through 2020 after this season. The outfielder was handed an 82-game suspension, beginning on May 26, for his involvement in a domestic dispute on April 13. The suspension is up on August 2. He has a .501 OPS in 21 major league at-bats this season and a .278 OPS in 37 PA at Triple-A.
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will consider designating Olivera for assignment. The trade is all about the salary dump for the Padres, as they’d rather give outfield playing time to prospects Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.