HOUSTON -- The Astros couldn't have asked for a better start to the season from right-hander Gerrit Cole, who finished a terrific April by striking out 12 batters in 6 2/3 innings in Houston's 8-4 win over the A's on Sunday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.Cole, acquired in a trade
HOUSTON -- The Astros couldn't have asked for a better start to the season from right-hander Gerrit Cole, who finished a terrific April by striking out 12 batters in 6 2/3 innings in Houston's 8-4 win over the A's on Sunday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.
Cole, acquired in a trade from the Pirates in January, started six games in April and went 2-1 with a 1.73 ERA, taking a no-decision in Sunday's series finale against the A's. In 41 2/3 innings, he's struck out 61 batters -- a club record for April -- and issued only eight walks and 25 hits.
"Whatever word you want to say probably fits, whether it's elite or dominant or exceptional or spectacular," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "It sounds like it was historic with the strikeouts that he had in our uniform. It's so impressive to watch him navigate through the beginning of the game when he's preparing with a game plan to going out and executing and his reaction to things that are going on, whether it's what a hitter does to him or a way he did or didn't execute."
Sunday marked the seventh time this season an Astros pitcher had at least 11 strikeouts (fourth for Cole). That's a Major League record through 29 games.
Cole fell one out shy of finishing seven innings on the mound for the sixth start in a row to begin his Astros career. He left the game with a 3-2 lead in the seventh inning and tying run at second base before reliever Will Harris gave up a single by Jonathan Lucroy to allow the run to score.
"I had a feeling it was going to be a tough game," Cole said. "It's kind of the way those series typically go in rivalries. You kind of boat race somebody and then they boat race you, or vice versa. They put together a lot of tough at-bats today. They really didn't give anything away. The first time they scored was on two great pitches [that resulted in consecutive doubles by Chad Pinder and Lucroy in the third]."
Cole is the fourth pitcher in Astros history to strike out at least 60 batters in a single calendar month, joining J.R. Richard (62 in August 1979 and 69 in September '79), Mike Scott (64 in May '86) and Randy Johnson (61 in August '98).
"I saw him a lot when he was in Pittsburgh, and I know a lot of guys here haven't seen him that much," said Lucroy, who's 9-for-21 in his career against Cole. "I've faced him a lot, and I really just try to hit the ball back up the middle the other way. When he's throwing really hard, you can't try to yank stuff. You gotta kinda stay on him. I was able to get a couple pitches out over that I could hit hard."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.