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Cole sets Astros record for K's in 1st 2 outings

Astros righty strikes out 11 in his home debut, matching season-opening total
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- The Astros couldn't have asked for much more out of right-hander Gerrit Cole through two starts.

Cole, who allowed two hits and one run and struck out 11 in his Astros debut Sunday against the Rangers in Arlington, was even better in his home debut on Saturday night. Cole threw seven scoreless innings, allowing five hits, and struck out 11 batters in a 1-0, 10-inning win at Minute Maid Park.

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HOUSTON -- The Astros couldn't have asked for much more out of right-hander Gerrit Cole through two starts.

Cole, who allowed two hits and one run and struck out 11 in his Astros debut Sunday against the Rangers in Arlington, was even better in his home debut on Saturday night. Cole threw seven scoreless innings, allowing five hits, and struck out 11 batters in a 1-0, 10-inning win at Minute Maid Park.

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"It feels good," Cole said. "It feels good to be able to contribute, eat innings, provide some rest for the bullpen. Ideally, we don't go extra innings in this scenario, but with us having to use some guys [Friday], you try to get as deep as you can."

Cole, who threw 102 pitches, pitched around leadoff hits in the third, fourth, fifth and seventh innings -- ending each of those innings with strikeouts. His 22 strikeouts sets the club record for most by an Astros pitcher in his first two outings with the team.

Video: SD@HOU: Hinch on Cole's outing in win over Padres

"Combining them both, they were pretty mirror images of each other," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "He was so good and so dominant and very under control. I love the way that he thinks his way through the game and also executes the game plan. If he doesn't like a pitch, he stepped off a couple of times. He's just a very, very impressive, high-end starting pitcher. That makes us feel good when he gets the ball. We feel completely in control of the game."

Video: SD@HOU: Cole gets first strikeout at Minute Maid Park

After setting a career high with 21 swinging strikes in his season debut Sunday, Cole registered 19 swinging strikes against the Padres in his first career big league came at Minute Maid Park. Through two starts with Houston, he has a 0.64 ERA.

"I think his swings and misses are coming from close-to-perfect execution above the barrel where he needs to live," Hinch said. "Obviously, the chase breaking balls that he's thrown is because he's in the strike zone so much. It's a tough balance for the hitter to have to deal with when you expect Gerrit to throw strikes and he does throw strikes and he gets you to chase when he wants you to."

Eric Hosmer and A.J. Ellis of the Padres both said Cole is using his breaking stuff more. He threw 59 fastballs and 39 sliders or curves, along with four changeups, on Saturday.

Video: SD@HOU: Cole fans Ellis for his 11th strikeout

"The one time I faced him in the National League, he was relying on his fastball a lot more," Hosmer said. "He's using his breaking stuff in neutral counts and hitters counts right now. You put that with his 98 mph fastball, it makes for a tough at-bat."

No one is more impressed than Cole's teammates.

"I think he looks phenomenal," third baseman Alex Bregman said. "Stuff is exploding out of his hand. It's fun to play behind him. He has momentum building and he's pitching off that and looks great."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros, Gerrit Cole