(SportsNetwork.com) - Gerrit Cole hopes to pick up where he left off last season when Pittsburgh Pirates resume their season-opening three-game series with the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.
Cole's time was limited last season due to a lat injury, but he had perhaps the best start of his young career on the final day of the regular season against the Reds, as he scattered four hits and fanned 12 batters over seven innings.
Big things are expected from the 24-year-old right-hander, who owns a 3.45 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 8.4 K/9 through his first 255 1/3 career major league innings.
Cincinnati, meanwhile, will counter with righty Mike Leake, who was 11-13 last season with a 3.70 ERA. Leake, though, was extremely impressive this spring, pitching to a 1.35 ERA and an 11/3 K/BB ratio over 20 innings in the Cactus League.
Leake hasn't lost to the Bucs since May 5, 2012 and has a 5-0 record with a 3.42 ERA in the last 13 games he has started against them
Cincinnati got a tremendous performance from Johnny Cueto in Monday's opener, but it needed some late-inning heroics from Todd Frazier to propel it to a 5-2 win.
Frazier's three-run, eighth-inning homer was the difference after Andrew McCutchen had tied the game in the top half of the frame with a two-run homer off of reliever Kevin Gregg.
"Frazier had to do one job, hit the ball in the air -- and that's exactly what he did," said Cincinnati's Marlon Byrd. "It just went a little further than usual."
Gregg's misstep took a win away from Johnny Cueto, who fanned 10 and gave up four hits and a walk over his seven-inning start. Counterpart Francisco Liriano also lasted seven frames, allowing two runs on as many hits while fanning seven and issuing three walks.
Pittsburgh hasn't started a season 0-2 since opening the 2006 season with six straight losses.
Luckily for the Bucs they'll have their stopper on the hill, as 11 of Cole's 21 big league wins have followed losses.