Behind the powerful Pedro Alvarez and rookie right-hander Gerrit Cole, the Pittsburgh Pirates stunned the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Friday, 7-1.
The divisional round series is now even at one game apiece.
Cole helped himself out right away in the second inning, singling home Pedro Alvarez after the third baseman's double to deep center. He batted .206 with five RBI in 19 regular-season games.
"He pitched with intent, conviction. He executed ... A big game performance for Gerrit. " - Clint Hurdle on Cole: http://t.co/hWEDnNDefe— MLB (@MLB) October 4, 2013
Bleacher Report MLB Lead Writer Zachary D. Rymer promptly tweeted:
Gerrit Cole awesome level: Considerable.— Zachary D. Rymer (@zachrymer) October 4, 2013
James Santelli of Pirate Prospects quipped:
Pittsburgh wasn't done yet, though. In the next frame, Alvarez homered to center, scoring Justin Morneau and giving the Pirates a 3-0 lead early.
BuzzFeed Sports hit us with the GIF and a nice chronicle of Alvarez's life:
In the fifth, the Pirates continued to pile on, as a ground-rule double by Marlon Byrd and a single by Russell Martin plated Morneau and Alvarez, respectively.
It was Byrd's third hit in nine at-bats in the postseason up until that point. Not bad, considering Byrd had never played in the playoffs before this season.
At that point, Alvarez was 2-for-2 with two RBI, two runs and a walk. Morneau was 2-for-3 with two runs.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Cardinals finally put a run on the board against Cole, courtesy of a solo shot by Yadier Molina.
The Cardinals tweeted out the highlight:
However, Cole retired six of the next seven batters to finish with one run allowed over six innings. The rookie was spectacular in his first career postseason game, and he did it on the road, no less. He allowed two hits, walked one batter and struck out five on Friday.
Alvarez added after the game, via MLB.com: "He's competed at the plate all year. He's a pretty good hitter, not just on the mound but in the box. A lot of his at-bats have contributed to some 'W's.' That's just the nature of his game. He competes."
The Pirates had Cole skip a start down the stretch in the regular season after clinching home-field advantage in the wild-card game.
Cole said it paid off, via Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News: "That kept me on the same routine, and I think that was important for me to feel comfortable going into this."
The Pirates struck again in the seventh. After Byrd got to second on an error by Cardinals third baseman David Freese, he advanced to third on an Alvarez groundout and then scored on a sacrifice fly from Martin.
James Santelli of Pirate Prospects tweeted:
#PIRATES 6, CARDINALS 1 − 7th — St. Louis hands over a gift insurance run. Marlon Byrd reaches on Freese’s pop-up misplay, scores on sac fly— James Santelli (@JamesSantelli) October 4, 2013
Freese had 11 errors this season, the fifth-most among National League third basemen. His first of the playoffs helped the Pirates add to the lead.
It only got worse for St. Louis. Shelby Miller stepped onto the mound in the top of the eighth, only to give up a solo shot to Starling Marte right off the bat. It was Marte's first postseason home run of his career.
Jason Grilli closed it out for Pittsburgh, allowing a double to Matt Adams but striking out Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina and Jon Jay.
The Pirates and Cardinals square off again at 4:37 p.m. on Sunday at PNC Park.
|Starling Marte LF||B|
|Neil Walker 2B||D|
|Andrew McCutchen CF||C|
|Justin Morneau 1B||B+|
|Marlon Byrd RF||C+|
|Pedro Alvarez 3B||A|
|Russell Martin C||B+|
|Jordy Mercer SS||C+|
|Gaby Sanchez (PH)||C-|
|Gerrit Cole SP||A|
|Matt Carpenter 2B||C-|
|Carlos Beltran RF||C+|
|Matt Holliday LF||F|
|Matt Adams 1B||C+|
|Yadier Molina C||B-|
|Jon Jay CF||F|
|David Freese 3B||D|
|Daniel Descalso SS||C-|
|Adron Chambers (PH)||C-|
|Kolten Wong (PH)||C-|
|Lance Lynn SP||F|
Player of the Game: Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates
I considered Gerrit Cole here, but Alvarez simply stood out too much.
Alvarez was sensational on Friday, going 2-for-4 with two RBI, two runs and a walk. Whether he was pounding the ball into the stands or drawing walks, he was in the zone in Game 2.
Friday's game marked just the third playoff game of the 26-year-old's career, but he seems more than ready for postseason baseball. He's now gone 3-for-10 with two home runs, four RBI, three runs and one walk in 11 plate appearances this postseason.