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.
Former Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi is up for grabs this offseason, and Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe says that as many as nine suitors are interested in bringing the righty aboard. While the Red Sox are eager to retain Eovaldi’s services after his lights-out performance during their recent postseason run, they’ll have to contend with the Brewers, Phillies, Braves, White Sox, Padres, Blue Jays, Giants, and Angels — all of whom are reportedly positioned to offer something for the starter this winter.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the 28-year-old in 2018, however. After losing his 2017 season to Tommy John surgery, he underwent an additional procedure to remove loose bodies from his right elbow in March and didn’t make his first appearance until the end of May. He was flipped for lefty reliever Jalen Beeks just prior to the trade deadline and finished his season with a combined 6-7 record in 21 starts, a 3.81 ERA, 1.6 BB/9, and 8.2 SO/9 through 111 innings.
Despite his numerous health issues over the last few years, Eovaldi raised his stock in October after becoming a major contributor during the Red Sox’ championship run. He contributed two quality starts in the ALDS and ALCS and returned in Games 1-3 of the World Series with three lights-out performances in relief — including a six-inning effort in the 18-inning marathon that was Game 3.
A frontrunner has yet to emerge for the righty this offseason, but Cafardo points out that the nine teams listed so far might just be the tip of the iceberg. Still, he won’t be the most sought-after starter on the market, as former Diamondbacks southpaw Patrick Corbin is expected to command an even bigger payday following his career-best 6.0-fWAR performance in 2018.