Heat of the moment stokes Cole

Ace unflinching against game's best hurlers

Heat of the moment stokes Cole

PITTSBURGH -- In his Major League debut, Gerrit Cole beat Tim Lincecum. In his second big league start, Cole beat Zack Greinke. This season, Cole started wins over Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw. So the young right-hander has done well starting games in the shadow of Cy Young Award winners.

How will he respond to going up against another potential Cy Young Award winner, the Cubs' Jake Arrieta, in tonight's National League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser, live on TBS at 8 p.m. ET?

Like a typical Californian, he might shrug and go, "Whatever." Because he is the same intense, competitive pitcher regardless of who is on the other side.

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Not to imply he doesn't recognize the royalty of the opposition. The bar is being set pretty ... well, low.

Date Result
Oct. 7 CHC 4, PIT 0

"You can sit here and say he's probably going to go pretty deep and he's probably going to go pretty low," Cole said. "So you're probably going to have to go pretty deep and you're probably going to have to go pretty low, too."

Even though he is at the end of only his second full MLB season, facing the other team's ace in an elimination game will not be new territory for Cole. In Game 5 of the 2013 NL Division Series, he took on the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright. The Bucs lost that game, 6-1, but it was a 2-1 duel at the time Cole left after five innings.

College ball prepped Cole for Wild Card start

"You get into a situation where your back's up against the wall," Cole said, drawing on that experience, "and you don't have any option but to go out swinging, so you might as well go for it. Treat it like any other game, and hopefully you've put yourself in a position to prepare for this opportunity, and I think I have."

Cole on road to postseason

According to his manager, the preparation had nothing to do with the opposition -- even though Cole will be an underdog at home for one of the rare times of his entire career.

"I think he's kind of way past that type of deal on who is getting street cred or who is getting media coverage or who is getting all that," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "I think he's just looking forward to getting the ball."

Cole driving Pirates' postseason train

Going up against a pitcher of Arrieta's ilk would clearly matter more to Cole as a hindsight on the road to the National League Division Series.

"I feel like when you're in these situations you want to face the best," Cole said "You want to get the best measure and best temperature of the other team because you really want to earn these wins."

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.