(BaseballStL) — Much like Wednesday’s matchup, Friday’s action features two young stars hoping to build on their first year’s success.
Shelby Miller returns after winning more games than any Cardinal rookie in nearly 50 years. His 15-9 record and 3.06 ERA put him in contention for NL Rookie of the Year (he finished third), and his 169 strikeouts yielded a nearly 9 K/9 rate. He struck out nearly three batters for every one he walked, and was 17 runs better than the league average starter.
Gerrit Cole’s first season helped push the long-suffering Pirates into the playoffs for the first time in two decades. He won his first four career starts, something a Pittsburgh pitcher hadn’t done in more than 100 years. He also won his last four starts in the regular season, and his first postseason start before finally falling to the Cardinals in the NLDS.
His 117 innings are a small sample size, but he managed to strike out 100 hitters in 2013 while walking only 28. In Cole’s only two games against St. Louis, he threw well, holding the Cardinals to two hits in Game 2 while striking out five. In their rematch in Game 5, David Freese took Cole deep to left for a two-run homer. They were the only two runs he gave up, but he ultimately took the loss.
Miller’s exposure to the Pirates was far more unkind. He was 0-4 and gave up 15 runs while the Bucs posted a .319 average against him. The absence of success against the Pirates played a large part in Miller’s postseason absence in 2013, and the 23-year-old looks for redemption Friday.
For Cole, it will be about answering questions. His early and late success last year left an air of optimism for Pittsburgh fans, but many wonder if he can replicate that success when teams know he’s coming.