Pirates fans and scouts can breathe easy -- Gerrit Cole is back.
Or perhaps he never left. A week after getting knocked out of a game by a pair of comebackers that glanced off his face, the Pirates' first-rounder bounced back with 5 2/3 strong innings, hitting 99 mph as Double-A Altoona beat Binghamton, 6-2, on Monday night.
It was a big test for the 21-year-old right-hander, who dropped to the mound in pain on June 26 after Harrisburg's Sean Nicol hit a line drive that struck Cole in the face, the second comebacker to hit the Curve ace that inning. In what looked like a scary moment, Cole laid motionless on the ground, but eventually got back on his feet and struck out the final batter of the inning before going to a hospital for tests.
That game marked the shortest outing of Cole's career, but it clearly did not deter him Monday when he struck out six and held the Mets to a pair of runs -- one earned -- on six hits over 5 2/3 frames for his seventh overall win and second in the Eastern League.
Cole worked a 1-2-3 first inning and struck out Eric Campbell and Dustin Martin in the second en route to retiring the first seven batters he faced. Juan Centeno reached on missed catch error by first baseman Matt Curry with one out in the third, and after Mets starter Gonzalez Germen bunted foul with two strikes, Juan Lagares finally connected for the Mets' first hit, driving home Centeno with a single to left off Cole.
The run was unearned, and Cole got back to task, working around a pair of two-out singles in the fourth. He survived a leadoff single and a walk in the fifth, but didn't finish the sixth.
Cole, who hit 99 mph in the sixth, allowed a leadoff single to Campbell and an RBI double by Wilmer Flores before throwing a wild pitch to let Flores take third.
The UCLA product popped up Sean Kazmar for the second out but handed the ball off to Nathan Baker, who got Centeno to fly to left to end the frame.
Cole threw 63 of his 87 pitches for strikes in his second win in three Double-A starts. In 11 2/3 innings since his promotion, the California native has allowed six earned runs and one walk with 13 strikeouts.
The Pirates' first-round pick in last year's Draft began his first professional season with Class A Advanced Bradenton, going 5-1 with a 2.55 ERA in 13 starts.
Cole was in position to win all night after Altoona scored twice in the first and Brock Holt's solo shot in the third gave the Curve a 3-0 lead. Ramon Cabrera doubled and scored in the fourth before Altoona tacked on insurance runs in the seventh and ninth.
Germen fell to 4-6 for Binghamton after allowing five runs -- three earned -- on eight hits and two walks over seven frames.