Cole finds 'another gear' to thwart Giants

Pirates starter joins Colon, Hernandez atop Majors with eight wins

Cole finds 'another gear' to thwart Giants

SAN FRANCISCO -- For one night at least, King Felix had to share his throne with King Cole. Gerrit Cole's reward for the seven dogged innings that set up the Bucs' 4-3 win over the Giants was his eighth win of the season -- tying him for the Major League lead with both Felix Hernandez and Bartolo Colon.

However, neither of those other two right-handers can approach Cole's 1.90 ERA -- no more than the Giants could approach him when the AT&T Park action came to a head in the sixth inning.

The Bucs had a 4-2 lead. The Giants had the bases loaded and no outs. Brandon Belt, who broke his bat but couldn't break Cole's spirit on a two-run double in the first, had a 2-0 count.

Six pitches later, Cole was out of the inning. The Giants had nothing out of it.

"To find another gear in that sixth ... to push himself out there, there was a hole dug, and he was the guy to get out of it," manager Clint Hurdle said with reserved admiration. "You shake your head a couple of times, and the bases are loaded and you got to go to work."

So Cole did, coming back to fan Belt, then getting Brandon Crawford to bounce a 1-0 pitch to second baseman Neil Walker for the inning-ending double play.

Cole's reaction to that was a vehement air punch, with a primal scream. Maybe later at night, the two UCLA alumni dissected that key play -- with Cole's girlfriend, who is Crawford's sister, between them.

"Anybody could've stepped into that box and I would've been out to get him," Cole said with a shrug of the biggest moment of one of his biggest nights.

Cole's nine strikeouts

It's not like Cole has been a secret. His 12 wins since last Sept. 7 are also a big league high, and he reigned this April as the National League Pitcher of the Month.

But steady excellence is one thing. One forceful step back away from a ledge is something else altogether. That gets noticed.

"That was just a big pitch for us," Cole said about Crawford's grounder, "to put somebody on the ground and get things going our way."

Meanwhile, Cole is still California Dealin'. The Newport Beach native and proud UCLA Bruin added AT&T Park to his victorious tour of the state, having already won in Angel Stadium, Dodger Stadium and Petco Park. He has yet to have a chance to do his thing in Oakland's Coliseum.

He savored his first here, because, well, "I swear their whole lineup was hititng .300. ... They get two broken-bat runs. ... They're diving all over left-center and right-center to make plays. It's the Giants, man ... the team and the atmosphere."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer and on his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.