It's always helpful for a battery to really be on the same page. On Friday night, Gerrit Cole and Tony Sanchez showed just how helpful it can be when a pitcher and catcher are at the top of their games.
Cole allowed two hits over seven innings and Sanchez collected a career-high four hits and three RBIs to lead Triple-A Indianapolis to an 11-0 thumping of Columbus.
For Cole (4-3), the Pirates' top prospect, the seven innings tied a career high. It was the longest he'd gone without allowing a run and the fewest hits he's given up in that many innings.
"[Cole] was unbelievable. I mean, he was awesome," Sanchez said. "It's easy to go out there and kind of not be prepared to throw that game because we were in an hour-and-a-half rain delay. The field conditions were subpar, I don't think he was happy with the mound, turf was kinda loose. It would be easy for a guy to shut it down mentally and go through the motions.
"But I was proud of him, how he dealt with that -- seven innings of great baseball. We were up seven or eight runs, so it was easy for us to attack guys, but if you don't have that fastball command, that's a good lineup over there with a lot of experience -- we gotta throw strikes and get as many outs as quickly as possible cause they could put up a five- or six-spot in any inning. He threw really well. When Gerrit's throwing 97, 98 mph with downhill angle, he's gonna be real hard to hit."
Cole walked one and matched a season high with five strikeouts while lowering his ERA to 3.25.
"I'm just trying to keep it consistent, have the same approach every time out," he said. "Sometimes the starts, the results don't match up with how well I seem to be throwing the ball -- or vice-versa -- and you gotta keep grinding away at it. I've had some good ones, not this good on paper, so it was definitely fun tonight."
Sanchez, Pittsburgh's 16th-ranked prospect, is in the midst of one of the best stretches of his career. The 2009 first-round pick, ended May with a .369/.442/.708 line to go with four homers and 16 RBIs in 20 games.
"Tony's on fire right now," Cole said. "I feel like if you hang him something he doesn't miss it, and when you make a pitch he hammers it the other way. It's really fun to watch when guys are locked in like that and sure as hell not fun to pitch to guys like that."
Sanchez is looking as good at the plate as he has at any time in his career and appears to be at his best since he hit .314/.416/.454 in 59 games for Class A Advanced Bradenton in 2010.
Overall, the 25-year-old backstop is batting .317/.415/.577 with six homers and 25 RBIs in 39 games. Last year with Indianapolis, he hit .233/.316/.408 in 62 games.
"I've been feeling really good as far as my approach, what I'm trying to do at the plate, the entire season," Sanchez said. "Unfortunately, I'm a notoriously slow starter, but the advantage I had is knowing what to expect coming into the IL. There was a lot of work in Spring Training, a lot of fine-tuning. Staying steady with my approach has gotten me to this point.
"I try not to get too high or too low, the season is still kind of early. If I'm still doing this in August, I'll be feeling pretty satisfied."
Felix Pie went 4-for-6 with two RBIs for the Indians, who got a homer and three RBIs from Matt Hague.