Pittsburgh Pirates’ Gerrit Cole throws against the San Francisco Giants in the first inning of the baseball game on Tuesday, June 11, 2013, in Pittsburgh. It was Cole’s major league debut. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Having won the World Series two of the last three seasons, the San Francisco Giants have rarely been an afterthought.
They were role players, however, when Gerrit Cole made his major league debut Tuesday night, taking a shutout into the seventh inning and hitting a two-run single in his first at-bat to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to an 8-2 victory over San Francisco.
The top pick in the 2011 draft, the right-hander allowed two runs and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings after being called up from Triple-A Indianapolis earlier in the day. He began his highly touted career with a three-pitch strikeout — all 96 mph fastballs — of Gregor Blanco and struck out two overall. He did not walk a batter.
“We knew he had big-time talent and he showed it,” San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. “He had good command of his pitches, he located pretty well and did a good job of keeping us off balance with his breaking pitch to go with the fastball.”
While Cole commanded his pitches, Pirates reliever Tony Watson gave the Giants a scare. The left-hander hit second baseman Marco Scutaro with a pitch on the left pinkie in the seventh inning.
The pitch bent the finger backward and Scutaro left for a pinch-runner. However, X-rays were negative and the Giants averted losing their second infielder to the disabled list in the same day. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval went on the DL before the game with a strained ligament in his left foot.
Scutaro thought his finger was broken and was concerned that he might miss some playing time.
“It was bent, like a snake,” Scutaro said. “If you try to pull it straight, it goes back down. It looks pretty bad. I guess what they said is it’s not broken but I don’t really know.”
Pedro Alvarez went 3 for 3 with a home run to back Cole. Starling Marte also homered and Andrew McCutchen and Russell Martin had two hits each.
San Francisco put two runners on in the first and loaded the bases in the second against Cole (1-0) but failed to score in either inning.
Cole then set down 13 in a row, starting with Scutaro’s flyout to end the second. The Giants finally broke through in the seventh inning, but the Pirates had built a 5-0 lead by then.
Many of the 30,614 in attendance cheered every move made by the pitcher who is expected to be the Pirates’ ace of the future.
“Really, I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” Cole said. “The guys played great defense and we scored a lot runs. I was able to take us pretty deep into the game and I even got lucky and got a hit. It’s tough to draw it up any better than this.”
The sizable crowd for a weekday game, though, caused problems for the organization, which instituted a new security measure for fans entering the stadium. The use of electronic wands slowed down the entrance procedure and Pirates President Frank Coonelly issued an apology during the game.
Tim Lincecum (4-6) gave up four runs — two earned — on seven hits in 4 2-3 innings while striking out four and walking two. It was the two-time Cy Young Award winner’s fourth loss in his last five starts.
“I kind of put myself in some holes with some pitches that weren’t really even close to the zone,” Lincecum said. “I really wasn’t challenging the zone with quality strikes. When I did throw quality strikes, they put them in play and hurt us.
San Francisco reliever George Kontos, who gave up a two-run home run to Alvarez in the seventh inning, was ejected for hitting McCutchen with a pitch in rear in the eighth. There were a total of four hit batters in the game.
“It was the right thing to do,” Bochy said of the ejection. “Both benches had been warned and George hit him. That’s the way it goes in that situation.”
Cole snapped a scoreless tie when he lined a two-run single into right field in the second inning with one out and the bases loaded. Cole did not have hit during his two seasons in the minor leagues, going 0 for 6 with three strikeouts.
“I got totally lucky there,” Cole said with a grin. “That’s my first hit since high school. It’s been a long time and I wasn’t expecting it.”
Martin, Alvarez and Walker singled to load the bases with no out. After first baseman Brandon Belt reached two rows into the stands to catch Clint Barmes’ foul pop, Cole delivered in his first plate appearance.
Lincecum was knocked out during a two-run fifth that pushed Pittsburgh to a 4-0 lead. Marte’s solo home run, his sixth, made it 5-0 in the sixth.
San Francisco closed to 5-2 in the seventh when pinch-hitter Brett Pill drove in a run with a ground out.
The Pirates answered with three runs in the bottom of the seventh to increase the lead to 8-2. Martin singled in a run and Alvarez hit his two-run homer, his 14th.
“We put some pressure on (Cole) early but we just couldn’t get the big two-out hits when we needed them,” Bochy said. “We didn’t take advantage of what opportunities we had.”
NOTES: San Francisco recalled INF Nick Noonan from Triple-A Fresno to take Sandoval’s roster spot. Joaquin Arias started at third base. … Pittsburgh placed LHP Wandy Rodriguez on the 15-day DL with tightness in his left forearm to open a roster spot for Cole. RHP Charlie Morton, who had Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last June, is expected to come off the DL and pitch Thursday against the Giants in Rodriguez’s place. … Giants LHP Barry Zito (4-4, 4.06) faces Pittsburgh LHP Francisco Liriano (4-2, 1.75) on Wednesday night.