Just shy of complete game, Cole in complete control

Catcher Stewart, manager Hurdle praise young righty for career-best 8 1/3-inning effort

Just shy of complete game, Cole in complete control

PITTSBURGH -- Even if Gerrit Cole had not walked Eric Campbell on a full-count fastball with one out in the ninth inning, there's no guarantee he would have completed Friday night's 4-1 win over the Mets.

Even if Campbell had swung and missed for Cole's 11th strikeout or grounded into an easy out, it would have been a tough decision for Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. Cole is a key piece of the Bucs' present and their future, went to the disabled list twice last season and taxed his right arm with 111 pitches vs. New York.

So Hurdle came to the mound and Cole came out of the game, still searching for his first complete game. If his performance Friday night was any indication, however, it won't be long.

Cole threw a career-high 8 1/3 innings, striking out 10 and scattering six hits with one walk as the Pirates took the series opener at PNC Park.

"He brought energy. He brought focus to the game," Hurdle said. "It was a good shot in the arm for us."

Cole still crossed into new territory Friday, even if the complete game eluded him. He'd never stepped foot on a big league mound in the ninth inning.

"It was exciting. It was fun to be out there and hear the crowd get into it," Cole said. "It's a little unfamiliar territory to me, but hopefully I can do a better job the next time I get that opportunity."

Cole was in command from the start Friday night, with a little help from catcher Chris Stewart. Cole hit Campbell with a pitch in the first inning, but Stewart caught the Mets' runner trying to steal to end the second after Cole struck out Lucas Duda. Cole gave up a one out-single in the second, but Stewart erased another baserunner.

Pirates turn a pair on strikeout

Stewart effusively praised Cole afterward, but Cole was equally insistent about the role his catcher played in shutting down the Mets.

"He's great back there," Cole said. "He's got a feel for the league better than I do. He's got a feel for me better than I do sometimes as well, so I think that's why it's been working."

Cole allowed an unearned run in the third, as Juan Lagares reached on an error and wound up scoring on a wild pitch. After that, the righty faced the minimum 15 batters until the ninth inning.

"It's the best performance I've seen him throw so far. He just keeps getting better and better," Stewart said. "The sky's the limit for him right now. ... When he's executing pitches, he's as good as anybody out there."

Cole fell two outs short of his first complete game, but in terms of performance, it was as complete of a game as he's put together in his young career.

"He had a shot to close it down. It didn't happen there," Hurdle said. "He'll do that one of these days. He'll take care of that."

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.