INDIANAPOLIS – Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole, a 2015 National League All-Star and former Indianapolis Indian, was back at Victory Field on Tuesday night.
The right-hander, who was placed on the disabled list on June 14 with a right triceps muscle strain, made his return to the mound by striking out six Louisville Bats in three innings of work. At the plate, Indy’s hitters gave Cole plenty of run support with a five-run first, as the Tribe ultimately picked up a 6-0 win in the second game of the series.
Cole looked pretty sharp on Tuesday, blanking the Bats on two hits in his three innings pitched, but admitted it was all about getting his feet wet after some time off. “There was a fair share of misfires, but it was about getting a feel for the game,” said Cole, “back out there working with the adrenaline as much as you can and trying to stay within your delivery. We definitely accomplished those things.”
After spending parts of three seasons with the Tribe from 2012-14, Tuesday marked Cole’s first start in downtown Indianapolis since August 10, 2014. Just like other Pirates that have made their way to the big leagues through Indy, Cole praised the organization as a great home for future stars.
It appears Tuesday will not be Cole’s last game in an Indianapolis uniform, however, as he said he expects to make another rehab start before returning to the majors. “I would anticipate another rehab start,” he said, “the main goal here is to get built back up.”
As for the Indians as a whole, they were able to get the win in Tuesday’s contest thanks in part to a major offensive outburst in the bottom of the first.
Seth Varner, who was called up from Single-A to start on the mound for Louisville, did not record a single out in his Triple-A debut. All seven batters Varner faced reached base, with three Indians collecting RBIs in the frame. Willy Garcia was the man that broke things open, clearing the bases with a three-run double.
Varner left the ballgame with an official final line of 0.0 innings pitched, having given up five runs (four earned) on five hits and a walk in his short time on the hill.
Louisville’s bullpen did a solid job of shutting down the Indians after their big first inning, but could not keep Indianapolis from adding some late insurance. Jin-De Jhang, who was promoted from the Altoona Curve in Double-A on Monday, notched both his first Triple-A hit and RBI with a run-scoring single in the seventh, extending the Tribe’s lead to 6-0.
With Cole scheduled to toss just three innings, Indianapolis was forced to call on their bullpen for the long haul. The Tribe’s relievers responded in a big way, shutting out Louisville in six innings of relief work. Justin Masterson led the charge with four scoreless frames and Curtis Partch and Jorge Rondon closed it out, each firing a scoreless inning to secure the 6-0 win for Indy.
After splitting the first two games of the three-game set, the Indians and Bats will go at it with a series victory on the line on Wednesday afternoon. Wilfredo Boscan (5-6, 3.86 ERA) will start on the bump for Indianapolis in the 1:35 p.m. matchup.