Two of baseball’s better young pitching prospects dueled at Fifth Third Field Tuesday night.
And while neither was satisfied with their effort, the result was a predictably low-scoring game that saw Indianapolis beat the Mud Hens 4-2.
Indy’s Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh’s top prospect and Baseball America’s choice as baseball’s 12th-best prospect, got the better of Toledo’s Casey Crosby, who is ranked as the Tigers’ eighth-best prospect.
PHOTO GALLERY: Indianapolis Indians vs. Mud Hens, April 16
Cole gave up four hits and four walks while fanning five in 6 1/3 innings. The first overall pick in the 2011 draft, Cole allowed just one hit until the seventh, when he surrendered three, including an RBI single by Bryan Holaday.
“My command was OK,” Cole said. “I had some opportunities to get ahead of some guys, and I didn’t.
“But I just tried to stay as aggressive as I could.”
The start was much better than his previous start against the Hens, where he lasted just two innings because he threw 63 pitches. But Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin knew Cole would be better Tuesday.
“I’ve known the kid since he was in high school,” Nevin said of Cole. “[Tuesday] he was ‘on.’ He threw everything for strikes.”
Meanwhile Crosby gave up four hits but walked four in 5 2/3 innings despite not having his best stuff.
“I felt my off-speed pitchers were terrible,” Crosby said. “They were sitting on my fastball and anything else they just spit on.
“I couldn’t throw my change-up for a strike, and early on I couldn’t throw my curveball for a strike.”
Crosby’s costliest mistake came in the fifth. After giving up a leadoff single to Matt Hague, the lefty walked Jerry Sands on five pitches. Tony Sanchez then swung at Crosby’s next pitch and slammed it over the fence in left-center for his first home run of the year.
“He’s an aggressive hitter — he swung at the first pitch in his first at-bat,” Crosby said of Sanchez. “I needed to throw a strike there, and he got me.
“I threw it right down the middle, thigh-high. I was just trying to throw a strike, and he took advantage of it.”
The Indians added a run in the eighth that Toledo countered with a run in the bottom of the inning. But Danny Worth struck out with the bases loaded in that frame as Toledo finished with less than than three runs for the seventh time in the last 10 games.
“We’ve got to score more than two runs a game,” Nevin said. “How many times have we scored more than two? It hasn’t been many.
“Two runs a game, even as good as our pitching staff is, just isn’t going to work. What it will do will put strain on the staff.”
NOTES: RHP Jose Valverde, who the Tigers signed as a minor-league free agent, will throw one inning in an extended spring training game today. If things go well with that appearance, he will pitch for Hi-A Lakeland in the Florida State League Friday and Saturday. Valverde currently is on the Mud Hens’ roster. … Rain started to fall as the Hens came to bat in the seventh but stopped by the time Toledo was hitting in the eighth.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.