Cole thwarts role, raps homer and double

Bucs' ace: Pirates' pitchers take hitting seriously to 'make lineup stronger'

Cole thwarts role, raps homer and double

PITTSBURGH -- Gerrit Cole crushed the 0-1 fastball from D-backs left-hander Patrick Corbin, sending the ball crashing deep into Arizona's bullpen some 409 feet away from the plate, according to Statcast™. He rounded first base, clapped his gloved hands and pumped his fist. What was he thinking?

"I was hoping we could get the runners over," Cole said.

Cole did far more than advance a few runners in the Pirates' 8-3 win over the D-backs at PNC Park on Thursday. The right-hander went 2-for-2 with a three-run homer and a double, giving himself some early run support before the Bucs bats broke out late to finish off a sweep and an 8-2 homestand.

The three-run blast was Cole's second career homer, his first since 2014, and his two-out double in the fourth was the first of his career.

For some clubs, the sight of a pitcher at the plate is, at best, a whimsical sideshow. At worst, they're an automatic out. Not so for the Pirates. They focused last spring on getting more out of their pitchers at the plate, and their starters have taken it seriously in turn.

Cole's double to right-center

"It's definitely a part of the game you should take pride in," Cole said. "You figure when you match up against other clubs and you go through the lineup one through nine, you get to the nine hole, if you can put together an at-bat or you can see some different pitches that helps give you an advantage competitively, it can make your lineup stronger."

That attitude is reflected in Pittsburgh's results, as Pirates pitchers entered Thursday leading the National League with a .178 average -- not an eye-catching number, but also not an automatic out. Their mentality is also reflected in their work.

Need proof? Look out on the field four or five hours before first pitch.

Cole has been taking early batting practice with manager Clint Hurdle, working to calm his head movement so he could be a more productive hitter.

"For me, it's more about having fun out there and competing and trying to make a difference in the game in every aspect that I can," said Cole, who also allowed one unearned run in five innings on the mound. "I feel like my teammates are trying to do the same thing. I owe it to them to go out there and fight."

Cole fans five, shows off bat

Cole is the third pitcher with multiple extra-base hits in a game this season, joining the Mets' Noah Syndergaard, who had a two-homer game, and the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright, who doubled and homered on May 2.

Cole also became the first Pirates pitcher in almost exactly 20 years to hit a homer and double in the same game, a feat last accomplished by Danny Darwin on May 29, 1996.

"Just looked like he wanted to hit," Hurdle said. "I know it sounds different, but you spend time around these guys, you've got to go with your gut sometimes. Let him swing the bat, see what happens."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.