Pirates 7, Cardinals 1
Gerrit Cole and the Pittsburgh Pirates played a game of role reversal, and pulled even with the host St. Louis Cardinals.
The hard-throwing rookie gave up two hits in six dominant innings and also had an RBI in his postseason debut, Pedro Alvarez homered for the second day in a row and the Pirates beat the Cardinals on Friday to even their National League Division Series at one game apiece.
“Just what we’ve been seeing all year,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “You saw a focused man that was ready to go.”
A day after St. Louis got a strong effort from its starter and took advantage of mistakes to romp 9-1 in the opener, the Pirates showed poise for their first playoff win since 1992 while the Cardinals looked tentative in the field.
The Pirates head home for Game 3 Sunday in the best-of-five series. Wild-card game winner Francisco Liriano faces Cardinals right-hander Joe Kelly.
Cole faced the Cardinals for the first time and left most of them shaking their heads, striking out five and walking one. After allowing Carlos Beltran’s double with one out in the first, the 22-year-old retired 11 in a row before Yadier Molina led off the fifth with his third career postseason homer.
Relying on a fastball that peaked at 99 mph on the stadium radar gun and one that TBS had at 100, Cole had hitters helpless at times even without shadows that benefited pitchers early in Game 1.
“I just trusted myself and tried to keep it as simple as I could,” Cole said. “You just try and clear your mind after every pitch and just look forward.”
When he got in the least bit of trouble, Cole ignored chants from a second consecutive sellout crowd at Busch Stadium.
“You just have to take a deep breath,” Cole said. “Rip off the rear-view mirror on the car.”
Cardinals starter Lance Lynn needed some help. He hasn’t lasted long enough to qualify for the victory in any of his three career postseason starts and yielded five runs and seven hits in 4⅓ innings.
“It was a bad game,” Lynn said. “I made four bad pitches for four extra-base hits. When I made a mistake with the fastball, they were ready for it.”
Lynn was manager Matheny’s choice for Game 2 ahead of rookies Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha, the decision based on the right-hander’s strong September and 9-3 record at home.
Wacha (4-1, 2.78) will oppose Charlie Morton (7-4, 3.26) in Game 4 Monday.
Alvarez doubled and scored on Cole’s single in the second to put the Pirates ahead — eighth-place hitter Jordy Mercer was walked intentionally ahead of Cole.
Center fielder Jon Jay said he should have tracked down the double by Alvarez.
“That’s a play I’ve got to make and I didn’t,” Jay said. “That’s on me.”
Alvarez then hit a 418-foot, two-run homer in the third.
Braves 4, Dodgers 3
Mike Minor pitched six strong innings, Jason Heyward had a two-run single and the host Atlanta Braves held on to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers and even the NL Division Series at one game apiece.
The Braves turned three double plays, the most important coming to end a Dodgers threat in the seventh with Atlanta clinging to a 2-1 lead. Luis Avilan got it started by backhanding Carl Crawford’s grounder to the mound.
Hanley Ramirez drove in all three Dodgers runs with a first-inning double and a two-run homer in the eighth, just clearing the wall after a one-handed swing off David Carpenter.
Craig Kimbrel walked two in the ninth but struck out Crawford for the save.
Backup catcher Gerald Laird helped, too, throwing out pinch-runner Dee Gordon in a close play at second base.
Game 3 in the best-of-five series is Sunday at Dodger Stadium.