Cole delivers ace-like outing vs. D-backs

Pirates righty has seven straight wins dating back to last season

Cole delivers ace-like outing vs. D-backs

PHOENIX -- Early in Friday night's game, Gerrit Cole glanced up at Chase Field's video board and read the numbers next to the names of D-backs big boppers Paul Goldschmidt and Mark Trumbo with an inner scowl.

"Gosh, they're hitting near .300," Cole mused to himself.

A couple of hours later, Goldschmidt and Trumbo saw numbers next to the name of Cole on the same video board and frowned: 98 mph, the speed of Cole's eighth-inning fastballs.

"It jumped out at you when he got to Goldschmidt and Trumbo, and still threw three at 98 in the eighth inning," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

There was a lot to admire in the 7 2/3-inning effort toward the Bucs' 4-1 win. For a while now, the evergreen question has been if-and-when Cole would flower as an ace. And it might be gradually happening even as the question is being asked.

The vanquished manager shared that view.

"He's a No. 1 pitcher," Arizona skipper Chip Hale said. "He's been groomed that way since he came out of college [UCLA]. He was really good. I think he controlled the zone, he threw his fastball where he wanted to, and obviously his breaking ball helped. He was on tonight."

This was Cole's seventh straight victory, the longest current personal streak in the Majors.

"I wasn't aware of it. Guess it's cool," Cole said nonchalantly.

Remember the last time you lost a game?

Cole pondered a few seconds, then said, "No. No I don't."

It was on Sept. 1, in St. Louis, nine starts ago.

But enough of the negative stuff. Cole was so electric, he almost made his manager join the weathermen. That is Hurdle's name for media who are quick to build up guys on hot streaks, who "report the weather."

Hurdle fought to maintain his own equilibrium, but nearly lost.

"We'll continue to give him some time to pitch this year, and see where he can take it," Hurdle began, then went to gush mode. "Twenty-seven of 32 first-pitch strikes -- for a power pitcher. Twenty-two outs on three pitches or fewer -- for a power pitcher.

"Every time he got a runner in scoring position, seems like he found another gear."

Cole had to relatively struggle in that eighth inning -- he went to a full count on Goldschmidt before getting him to line out, walked Yasmany Tomas -- to get his balls count up to 30, out of the 108 pitches he made.

"Yeah, I felt like I had good command," Cole said. "I could move the fastball around pretty well. Inside, outside, up, down … I thought I had all four corners. They're aggressive, all swing the bat well and I was throwing strikes -- so it was kinda the product of how they've been playing and how I pitch."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.