It’s not a surprise now, but it would have been a week ago: the Pirates will go to Gerrit Cole over A.J. Burnett in Wednesday’s decisive Game 5 against the Cardinals.
Burnett has won 26 games with a 3.49 ERA in his two seasons with the Pirates, but that’s all been undone by one hideous inning in the Game 1 loss. After starting off with a pair of scoreless frames, Burnett retired none of the seven hitters he faced in the third and all came around to scored in the 9-1 loss.
Cole, the first overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft, followed that up with six innings of one-run ball in a Game 2 victory.
If Burnett’s Game 1 struggles were the end of it, the Pirates likely would have given him the ball again. However, the career 6.37 postseason ERA weighs heavily here. Mental toughness has always been a question mark with Burnett, and the fact is that the Pirates have more faith in the rookie right now.
Dating back to the regular season, Cole has won five straight starts. When the Pirates score three runs, they’re 19-1 with Cole on the mound.