Pirates righty notches 7th straight win away from PNC Park
By Jordan Horrobin
DETROIT -- Gerrit Cole said he's not partial to either the Pirates' gray or white jersey. But the way he's going right now, he looks better in the road gray.
Cole polished off eight strong innings in Pittsburgh's 7-5 win against Detroit on Thursday, earning his seventh straight quality start and his seventh straight road win. He's the first Pirate since Don Robinson in 1982 to win seven in a row away from home.
"There's usually an added degree of difficulty winning on the road," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Gerrit's as fierce a competitor as we have. He's been in a good place. The pitch efficiency and the execution showed up."
The road winning streak started sloppily, as Cole's offense supported him through five innings and seven runs allowed against the Mets on June 2. But since then, his ERA away from PNC Park has been 2.25 in 40 innings.
Thursday didn't begin smoothly for Cole, who was scored on in the first inning for the fifth time in the past eight starts. With two outs and runners on first and second, he faced Nicholas Castellanos with a chance to escape unscathed. Cole quickly took Castellanos to an 0-2 count and tried to blow a 97-mph fastball by him for strike three.
Instead, Castellanos fought off the pitch and softly dropped it the other way into right field with an exit velocity of 63.5 mph, according to Statcast™. The ball narrowly landed fair, but it brought in two runs.
"I made my fair share of mistakes there in the first," Cole said. "I missed on the pitch to Castellanos, but it still ended up in a decent spot for weak contact. Happened to get a bad bounce there."
Mikie Mahtook scorched a line-drive home run in the third, but that was the last splash Detroit made vs. Cole. The Bucs righty sent the Tigers three-up, three-down in each of his final five innings. Twice, when they put a runner on base, Cole threw a double-play ball to nip a possible offensive threat in the bud.
"He stayed with his program. He stayed with his game plan," Hurdle said. "Even though they scratched some runs off him early ... he didn't wobble. He kept making pitches."
Cole only reached three three-ball counts all game, and he threw 73 of his 102 pitches for strikes. It was his longest outing since he pitched a complete-game three-hitter against the Mariners on July 27, 2016.
Hurdle said before Wednesday's game that Pittsburgh is at its best when Cole and longtime outfielder Andrew McCutchen are producing in a big way, adding that they're "able to create a wave that carries people with them." While McCutchen has a .304/.418/.630 slash line in his past 13 games, Cole continues to do his part on the mound.
And though Cole was on the road Thursday, he had at least a sense of home as he pitched in front of some family members from Michigan -- including his father, uncle and grandfather.
"It's fun," Cole said. "It's nice to be able to play in front of them. It's nice to be able to see them. Family is everything."
Jordan Horrobin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit who covered the Pirates on Thursday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.