Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole earned the win in his team’s 2-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday, and he apparently wasn’t impressed with what he saw on the other side.
“I don’t really think they’re the best team in baseball,” he said about the 27-9 Cubs, per Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Even with that lofty record, the Cubs didn’t look like the baseball's best on Sunday. Cole was impressive in a bounce-back effort from the last time he faced the National League Central leaders:
|Gerrit Cole Against Cubs in 2016|
|Date||Result||Innings Pitched||Earned Runs||Hits Allowed||Walks||Strikeouts|
|May 2||7-2, Chicago||4.2||5||6||4||6|
|May 15||2-1, Pittsburgh||8.0||0||3||0||7|
It wouldn't be a stretch to view Cole’s claim as sour grapes after the Cubs eliminated his team in last year’s playoffs. He started the Wild Card Game at home for Pittsburgh but couldn’t keep up with counterpart Jake Arrieta in Chicago's 4-0 win. Cole allowed four earned runs, including two home runs, in five innings.
There is not much love lost between the two division rivals, and Cole’s comments are the latest indication.
The dugouts emptied in the seventh inning of the Wild Card Game last year when Pittsburgh relief pitcher Tony Watson hit Arrieta with a pitch. There was nearly a full-out brawl, and Pittsburgh’s Sean Rodriguez took a bat to a Gatorade cooler in the dugout in frustration in the aftermath.
Much like in last year's postseason game, Chicago has beaten up on the Pirates this season with a 5-1 record in head-to-head showdowns and a 38-13 run differential. At least Pittsburgh’s Josh Harrison got the chance to riff on the Cubs’ famous “Go Cubs Go” victory song Sunday after the Pirates salvaged one game of the three-game series, per Brad Robinson of WBBM 780 in Chicago:
Pittsburgh isn't the only team that has struggled against Chicago. The Cubs have the most wins in the majors and the best run differential at plus-109. Cole may not think Chicago is the best team in baseball, but no other squad has even a plus-60 run differential in the early going.
To Cole’s credit, there is still an element of doubt whenever the Cubs are involved because of their history. They infamously haven’t won a World Series since 1908 and have plenty of heartbreaking tales to tell from that 108-year span.
Still, this year’s version is well-positioned to snap that streak with superstars such as Arrieta, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.
If the Cubs maintain their torrid pace into October and finally win that elusive World Series title, Cole may change his tune.