(BaseballStL) -- First time's a charm it seems for Pirates righty Gerrit Cole. Having never faced the Cardinals, the 23-year-old took the mound Friday with questions swirling as to whether the offense or Cole had the upper hand.
"If the pitcher has his stuff, he has the advantage," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle before the game. "Good pitching beats good hitting. Always has, always will."
Hurdle proved prescient as Cole cruised through six innings in complete control.
He struck out six, threw 11 first-pitch strikes, saw nine counts of 0-2 or 1-2, and had the Cardinals flummoxed all afternoon.
"They don't strike out a whole lot," said the young pitcher of the Cardinal offense. "They work countrs and pick times to take and pick times to ambush. So it's critical just to make quality pitches early; not only to get ahead, but to minimize damage."
Cole threw 86 pitches in all, 56 for strikes. In the sixth, in which he threw 23 of those 86 pitches, he was still hitting 100 on the gun as he squelched the Cardinals threat by getting Matt Holliday to ground out with a man on.
His only glimpse of mortality came in the fifth when Yadier Molina went 408 feet to right center on a 1-0 count. Prior to that, he had retired 11 men in a row.
The Cardinals managed only two hits off the rookie, looking more like the Birds of late August than late September.
By the time Cole left the game, the air in Busch stadium left with him.
The brief pulse in the sixth had been extinguished with a called third on Thursday's hero Carlos Beltran and Holliday's tap out to short.
"I know today there were some big situations where I had to bear down and the crowd was on my back," Cole said. "So, you know, it's fight or flight. You have an option to make a pitch or give up a double."
He made his pitches, and from that point on, it seemed an exercise in futility for Redbird hitters to finish the game. They ended up with just two more hits and nine strikeouts total.
The final three outs played out before a stadium a little more than one-third full, as the bulk of the 45,999 fans had fled to the parking lot after another lackluster inning in the eighth.
The teams fly out Friday night for Game 3 in Pittsburgh, where Joe Kelly will face off against Francisco Liriano.