Gerrit Cole staring down Wil Myers is as good a matchup you'll see in the Minors, but Cole wasn't eager to make them long-lasting memories.
"I definitely wanted to make some pitches, be aggressive, but I didn't want to mess around with him too much," said Cole.
All business, Cole turned in his second straight dominant start, holding Myers hitless while limiting the Durham Bulls to three safeties and a walk over seven innings for his fifth win in Indianapolis' 1-0 victory on Wednesday afternoon.
Cole (5-3) struck out three and lowered his ERA to 2.91 in his 12th start for Triple-A Indianapolis. The right-hander, MLB.com's No. 8 overall prospect, shutdown Myers, baseball's No. 4 prospect, while limiting the Bulls to four baserunners on 95 pitches. Myers, the Rays' top prospect, went 0-for-4.
"You gotta be careful; the guy is a great talent. I had a lot of fun chasing him," Cole said. "Any time you're facing a guy with that pedigree, everything turns the dial up a little bit. You go 3-1, 2-1 -- those counts won't go in your favor no matter what pitches you make."
But Cole was efficient, shutting down a lineup full of veteran talent that included former No. 1 overall pick Tim Beckham and Major League veterans Shelley Duncan, Jason Bourgeois, Rich Thompson and Brandon Guyer. Myers alone is hitting .276 with 10 homers, ranks second in the International League with 47 RBIs and is the reigning IL Player of the Week.
"I felt OK -- I made some pitches when I had to," Cole said, "and I let the defense do the work for me."
The Indians, Pittsburgh's top affiliate, scored the game's only run in the fourth inning when Josh Harrison was beaned, advanced to third on a errant pickoff throw and scored on Felix Pie's double down the right-field line.
"It's definitely a lot of fun," Cole said of pitching in a tight game. "It changes the way you pitch in certain situations, but that's what you ask for, you ask for one run and you try to hold the lead."
Cole threw 62 of his 95 pitches for strikes and avoided trouble in his final frame when Duncan, who drew a two-out walk, was gunned down at third by Jerry Sands while trying to take an extra base on Guyer's single to right. For Cole, it was his second straight start with just one walk. He's struck out eight and allowed five hits over his last two starts, both seven-inning gems. He's allowed just two earned runs in his last three outings.
"I just think it's being aggressive early," he said. "I had one walk today -- I had to be careful with Shelley Duncan there in a one-run ballgame. Everyone knows he can hit the ball out. I made some quality pitches -- he did a really good job -- but I wanted to move on and attack the next guy."
After seven innings, Cole handed the ball over Kris Johnson, a first-round pick by the Red Sox in 2006. The 28-year-old southpaw, pitching out of the bullpen for the first time since May 3, struck out three and allowed two hits for his first save.
Cole said he had hoped to remain in the game for the eighth.
"I was a little frustrated -- it was a pretty good pitch count for the second straight time and I had to hand the ball over," he said. "But I can't say enough about our bullpen -- they came in and picked us up. So I'll take that. We had the extra innings game last night, so I wanted to get as deep as I could -- I knew we'd be short."
Cole, the Pirates' top pick in the 2011 Draft out of UCLA, was a Futures Game All-Star last season while reaching Triple-A in his first season as a pro. The 22-year-old has won three of his last five starts and owns the third-lowest WHIP in the International League at 1.03. His 2.91 ERA ranks seventh.
"It's fine, I'm just going along, trying to take care of business," he said.
With the Pirates at 35-25 and competing in the National League East, Cole said he may not be on the Bucs' radar right now, and it's not something he worries about, either.
"It's fortunate that we're really deep up there, but it's not something I think about."