Cole went eight scoreless innings, surrendering only three hits and striking out seven without a walk. He outdueled Cubs left-hander Jon Lester, who threw 6 1/3 no-hit innings before the Pirates' offense broke through. Cole atoned for bad outings in his two most-recent starts against the Cubs. And he gave his Pirates their first win in six tries this year against their division rivals.
"This was a great venue today," Pirates manger Clint Hurdle said. "If you look around the ballpark, did you see the rooftops? It's packed all over. There's nowhere to sit. … You got two guys on the mound that are doing what they do. That kind of experience, you can't get anywhere else but the big leagues, and to take that and pull the confidence from it, to go eight strong like that, wonderful day for him."
Cole did it with pinpoint fastball command and a slider working to near perfection. He threw 95 pitches in his eight innings, 65 for strikes. He could have gone out for the ninth for what would have been his first career complete game had Hurdle not opted to use closer Mark Melancon to shut the door.
"[Cole] got sharper as the game went on," Hurdle said. "The fastball command was plus-plus. Threw all his pitches for strikes … He was sharp, man. Really sharp."
In a May 2 outing against the Cubs earlier this season, Cole surrendered six earned runs and walked four in 4 2/3 innings. In last season's National League Wild Card Game, Cole gave up four runs in five innings and took the loss.
But this time, Cole breezed through the Chicago order, matching Lester and finally gaining the upper hand.
"There's definitely a rhythm to the ballgame," Cole said. "You'd like maybe to halt the opponent's rhythm as much as you can, but we ended up getting enough when we needed to."
And despite those two rough starts, it's not fair to say the Cubs own Cole. This victory moved him to 6-1 in seven career starts at Wrigley Field.
Despite the fact the Cubs had already won this three-game series, and despite the fact they are eight games ahead of the Pirates in the NL Central, Cole conceded nothing to them Sunday.
"It was just an opportunity to try to salvage the series," Cole said. "I don't really think they're the best team in baseball, so it's just one game at a time. It doesn't really matter who you're playing. You just have to keep going at them and competing."