The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


October 8, 2013

Youngsters blazing trails in division playoffs

PITTSBURGH — This isn't your father's Major League Baseball postseason.

Or even Michael Wacha's father's postseason.

The 2013 baseball playoffs are all about young arms. That was evident on Monday, as Wacha was almost perfect in leading the St. Louis Cardinals to a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in Game 4 of their National League division series at PNC Park.Wacha, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal combined to limit the Pirates to one hit. For the game.

Wacha is 22. Martinez is 21. Rosenthal is the old man in the group at 23.

Forget grizzled old veterans. Youth and power arms are buzzwords in baseball. Whether it's Oakland's Sonny Gray, Atlanta's Julio Teheran or Cleveland's Danny Salazar, managers are giving young pitchers more and more pressure-packed starts.

Need more proof?

The Pirates, with their postseason hopes on the line in the decisive Game 5, will hand the ball to 23-year-old Gerrit Cole on Wednesday in St. Louis. Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle could have gone with A.J. Burnett, the 36-year-old veteran who has eight career postseason starts, including two in the World Series, but instead he opted to go with the youngster.

And, no matter what happens at Busch Stadium on Wednesday, it was the right decision.

Burnett couldn't get an out in the third inning of Game 1, giving up seven runs to the Cardinals before mercifully being lifted. Cole, on the other hand, was fantastic in Game 2. He held the dangerous St. Louis offense to one run on two hits in six innings.

“We have one game to win,” Hurdle said in announcing Cole as his starter. “As I've done and I've challenged the guys to do, we need to do the best we can to win that next game. I believe that matchup is the best we can do to beat the Cardinals in Game 5.”

Hurdle refused to announce his starter prior to Game 4. And there's no reason to believe that his watching his hitters be utterly baffled for 7 1⁄3 innings by a pitcher who had made nine career starts in the majors prior to Monday had anything to do with his decision.

The simple fact is, Cole is the better option for Pirates, especially at Busch Stadium, where Burnett has been awful. With everything riding on Game 5 – and much of that outcome likely dependent on how the starting pitchers perform – Hurdle had to go with the hot hand in Cole.

Cole declined my interview request and Burnett was not in the clubhouse after the game. It's likely that Burnett, as competitive as he is, is unhappy with Hurdle's decision. But as a team leader, he must understand it.

“It's a difficult decision,” Hurdle said, “because he has meant so much (to the Pirates). We've asked so much of him while he's been here. (Busch Stadium) has been a very challenging park for him. If this was any other venue, he would have gotten the ball. But, for me, in this venue, this game, Cole is going to be our guy.”

Burnett has been terrific for the Pirates in what he has done for the team on the field and off it. He's been a vocal leader and mentor for the young pitchers. He's been great for the city and its fans.

But his track record won't do him or the Pirates any good on Wednesday. They need to win, and they need Cole – who was 2 years old the last time the Pirates were in the postseason – to lead the way.

Eric Knopsnyder is the editor of The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • racin 0416 Jennerstown Speedway gearing for May open

    Jennerstown Speedway released a very ambitious schedule on its website and continues to prepare for its 2014 reopening.
    The track is set to hold a practice day for drivers as well as an open house and media day on April 26.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • Pirates 0416 Dominant Cueto drops Pirates in matinee

    That playoff loss in Pittsburgh last year? Johnny Cueto never thought about it much. So getting a chance to shut out the Pirates in a rematch wasn’t any more special.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0416 Penguins rally to wear out Jackets

    Brandon Sutter scored on a wrist shot from the left circle 8:18 into the third period, helping the Pittsburgh Penguins rally for a 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals on Wednesday night.
    Beau Bennett and Matt Niskanen scored power-play goals 45 seconds apart in the second period, erasing Pittsburgh’s two-goal deficit.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Shelley and McElligot Series serves as reunion for former Chiefs personnel

    Not so long ago, Bob McElligott, like most Western Pennsylvania hockey fans, would savor a long Pittsburgh Penguins playoff run.
    The Somerset native followed the Pens’ Stanley Cup-winning teams in 1991 and 1992.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Malkin nearing return

    The Columbus Blue Jackets are the closest NHL team to the Pittsburgh Penguins, at least geographically. The two franchises are separated by 185 miles of highway.

    April 15, 2014

  • Reds swing way past Pirates

    Mike Leake doubled and hit a two-run homer Tuesday night, ending Gerrit Cole's winning streak and leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 7-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates that completed two days full of homers and delays.
    First, the NL Central rivals completed a game that was suspended in the sixth inning because of rain the previous night.

    April 15, 2014

  • Pirates Game 1 0415 Pirates edge out Reds in suspended game

    After all those home runs and an overnight delay, it was settled by a single.
    Andrew McCutchen doubled and came around on Russell Martin’s single in the seventh inning on Tuesday, giving the Pittsburgh Pirates an 8-7 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in the completion of a game that spanned two days and 10 home runs.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0414 Pressure on Penguins to capture Cup

    The statistics are gaudy.
    And if the Pittsburgh Penguins can’t find a way to extend their season into the final days of spring, ultimately forgettable.
    The same team that led the NHL in man games lost due to injury (more than 500) also earned 109 points, led the Metropolitan Division from mid-October on and received another peerless effort from star Sidney Crosby, who topped the league with 104 points and is a near lock for the second MVP award of his career.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0413 Brewers sweep away Pirates

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Senators dump Penguins in shootout

    April 13, 2014


Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

I'm not sure
     View Results
Order Photos

Photo Slideshow

House Ads