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
  • Pirates 0721 Rallying Dodgers snap Pirates’ win streak at 3 games

    Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched seven strong innings, Adrian Gonzalez reached base five times and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2 on Monday night.
    Ryu (11-5) joined Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw in making the Dodgers the first team in the majors with three 11-game winners.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0720 Pirates rally to keep sweep

    Taking the extra base was the key for the Pittsburgh Pirates in completing a three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies.
    Andrew McCutchen hit a tiebreaking single in the seventh inning, Neil Walker followed with a home run and the Pirates overcame a three-run deficit to beat the Rockies 5-3 Sunday.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • McIlroy 0720 McIlroy holds on to win British Open

    Walking off the 18th green as the British Open champion, Rory McIlroy kept gazing at all the greats on golf’s oldest trophy.
    On the claret jug, his name is etched in silver below Phil Mickelson.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0719 Pirates take second straight over Rockies, win in 11th inning

    Jordy Mercer doubled home Neil Walker with one out in the bottom of the 11th inning to lift the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night.
    Walker led off the inning with a single against Colorado’s Chad Bettis (0-2), moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, and scored one batter later when Mercer hit a drive deep into the gap in left-center.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • out at home Eighth-inning rally carries Pirates to victory over Rockies

    Travis Snider’s pinch-hit double in the eighth scored Neil Walker to spark the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 4-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Friday night.
    Walker trotted home when Colorado right fielder Carlos Gonzalez couldn’t track down Snider’s sinking line drive off reliever Matt Belisle (2-5). All-Star Josh Harrison added a sacrifice fly one batter later.

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • score Pirates in race, hope for late surge

    The Pittsburgh Pirates find themselves in an average, every day – if still heated – pennant race.
    A season after shedding the yoke of two decades of failure with a stirring run to a playoff berth, the Pirates are just another solid if not spectacular team trying to keep pace in the jam-packed NL Central.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Derby 0714 Cespedes wins again, beating Frazier in HR derby

    July 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • All-Star Game 0714 Pitching matchup features two of game’s most dominant arms

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jeter 0714 Derek Jeter, an All-Star for the last time

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Cleveland Browns getting 'Swagger’ with new dog mascot

    Johnny Manziel’s newest teammate with the Browns has four legs and can roll over on command.

    July 14, 2014


What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

     View Results
Order Photos

Photo Slideshow

House Ads