Pirates-Padres Preview

While the Pittsburgh Pirates continue to monitor Gerrit Cole’s

innings, the rookie’s only focus is trying to help his team

maintain first place in the NL Central.

The right-hander can do that by helping the visiting Pirates

complete their first sweep of the San Diego Padres in 10 seasons

Wednesday.

Since making his major league debut June 11, Cole (6-5, 3.88

ERA) has enjoyed a solid season, but Clint Hurdle and staff are

figuring out the best way to preserve him should Pittsburgh (74-51)

reach the postseason for the first time since 1992.

Though the team has not set an innings limit for Cole, who turns

23 next month, he’s thrown 140 between the minors and majors this

season. The 2011 first overall pick threw 132 minor league innings

during his first professional season in 2012.

It’s likely Cole would pitch out of the bullpen if the Pirates

make the playoffs, but the coaching staff could decide to give him

some work in that area during the final few weeks of the regular

season as well.

“They (pitching coach Ray Searage and Hurdle) are openly

communicating with me, letting me know what’s going on,” Cole told

the Pirates’ official website. “Doing things to extend my season is

fine; I just don’t want to be distracted by having to keep track of

innings or pitches while I’m on the mound.”

Pitching on eight days’ rest Friday, Cole allowed two runs in

six innings of a 6-2 victory over Arizona to end a three-start

stretch where he went 0-2 with a 5.19 ERA.

After the Pirates held San Diego (56-70) to single runs in each

of the first two contests, Cole tries to help the club sweep the

Padres for the first time since April 29-May 1, 2003.

A.J. Burnett threw seven strong innings and Pittsburgh banged

out six extra-base hits during Tuesday’s 8-1 win at Petco Park.

Pinch-hitter Josh Harrison hit a three-run triple in the seventh

after Andrew McCutchen delivered a two-run triple earlier in the

frame to help the Pirates win consecutive games after losing seven

of nine.

“All our hits were to the big part of the field,” Hurdle said.

“Couple balls were pulled to the gap. Everything else, big part of

the field, opposite.

“Something we’ve been talking about, something we’ve been

working on. We were able to put it in play (Tuesday).”

McCutchen is batting .426 with 12 RBIs in his last 17 games, and

is 3 for 8 against scheduled San Diego starter Ian Kennedy (4-9,

5.12).

The right-hander suffered his first loss with the Padres on

Friday when he allowed five runs, three homers, and walked four

while striking out seven in 4 2-3 innings of a 5-2 defeat to the

New York Mets.

“I wasn’t as sharp as I wanted to be command-wise all night,

which explains why there were so many home runs,” said Kennedy,

who is 1-1 with a 4.42 ERA in three starts since Arizona traded him

to San Diego.

The right-hander is 1-1 with a 3.75 ERA in four starts versus

Pittsburgh.

Jedd Gyorko had a fourth-inning homer Tuesday for the Padres,

who have scored three runs or fewer 11 times during a 4-10

skid.

The San Diego second baseman is batting .250 in August, but hit

six of his 14 home runs and has 11 RBIs in 16 games this month.