Gerrit Cole was two years old the last time the Pittsburgh Pirates made the playoffs.
In need of a starter for their series opener against the San Francisco Giants, the Pirates will hand the ball to their young phenom on Tuesday as Cole makes his highly-anticipated major league debut.
With a fastball that can reach 100 mph, Cole was twice selected in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft. The New York Yankees took the right- hander 28th overall in 2008, but Cole instead opted to play college ball at UCLA. The move paid off as the Pirates took Cole with the first overall pick of the 2011 draft.
The 22-year-old didn't need much time to excel in the minor leagues. He pitched at all three levels for the Pirates a season ago and made a case to open this season on the major league roster by going 1-0 with a 3.60 earned run average in Spring Training, giving up for runs over 10 innings and three appearances.
However, Cole began the campaign with Triple-A Indianapolis and he responded by going 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA in 12 starts. That was enough for the Pirates to give him the start in Tuesday's opener of a three-game series.
"We considered all the internal options and felt his development is where we hoped it would be," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle told his club's website on Saturday "This opportunity presented itself. It wasn't forced, it wasn't manufactured. It's just the right time."
The Pirates also hope it is finally time for a postseason appearance. The franchise has not appeared in the playoffs since 1992, but enters this opener 11 games over .500 (37-26).
Pittsburgh was aiming for a three-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs on Sunday, but dropped the finale 4-1. Jeff Locke took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, but exited with two outs in the frame after allowing his first hit of the contest. Locke had yielded a sacrifice fly that tied the game before the hit and walked seven batters in the no-decision.
"I didn't really know I didn't give up any hits, because there was someone on base every inning," said Locke. "I was pitching from the stretch no matter what."
The Giants, coming off their second World Series title in three years, took the final two contests of their three-game set with the NL West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks and enter play on Tuesday two games out of first place.
San Francisco scored a total of 16 runs in the back-to-back wins, with Sunday's 6-2 triumph giving the club its first road series victory since April 29-May 1.
"It's good to see the bats come to life," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
Bochy was without third baseman Pablo Sandoval on Sunday due to a strained left foot and a trip to the disabled list is possible for the slugger. He is hitting .289 on the year with a team-leading 37 RBI.
Tim Lincecum aims to win consecutive starts for the first time this season and two straight decisions for only the second time in 2013. The Giants right- hander and two-time NL Cy Young Award winner is 4-5 through 12 starts with a 4.75 ERA.
Lincecum snapped a three-start slide last Tuesday with a 2-1 win over Toronto, holding the Blue Jays to a run on three hits and a walk in seven innings of work.
"Working my fastball to both sides of the plate, that was the biggest thing today," Lincecum said of his success. "It opened up my secondary pitches. I expanded the zone and tried to stay aggressive."
Lincecum, who turns 29 on Saturday, will try to keep up that mentality on the road, where he is just 1-2 this season with a 5.67 ERA in five outings.
He is 1-2 in five previous meetings with the Pirates, notching a 4.45 ERA.
The Giants and Pirates split six meetings a season ago, with each team taking two of three at home.