By Will Graves
June 14, 2015
Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) delivers during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Pittsburgh, Saturday, June 13, 2015. The Pirates won 4-3, with Cole becaming the first pitcher in the majors to get his 10th win. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Gerrit Cole lacked his best stuff. The way things are going for the rapidly maturing Pittsburgh Pirates ace, he doesn't need it to get by.
And for a day, neither did Pittsburgh's normally reliable bullpen.
Cole allowed two runs in six innings to become the first pitcher in the majors to 10 victories this season after reliever Tony Watson escaped a precarious eighth inning as Pirates edged the Philadelphia Phillies 4-3 on Saturday.
Cole (10-2) struck out seven without a walk to trim his ERA to a major-league best 1.71 while winning his fifth consecutive start. The 24-year-old improved to 14-2 dating to last September when closer Mark Melancon worked a perfect ninth for his 20th save.
''We've played really, really well out there as a unit every time I've stepped on the hill,'' Cole said. ''Whether that has to do with my performance, I'm not quite sure. I think it has to do with the mentality that we bring.''
A mentality that sits just fine with the hyper-intense Cole. He gave up a leadoff hit in each of the first four innings but settled down to retire the final nine batters he faced.
''He's learning how to pitch now and he has an idea of what he wants to do and how to do it,'' Pirates third baseman Josh Harrison said. ''He's dangerous.''
The Phillies wasted a chance to tie the game in the eighth off Watson. Ben Revere led off with a double and scored on a pinch-hit single by Jeff Francoeur to pull Philadelphia within one. The Phillies then loaded the bases with no outs, only to come up with nothing. Maikel Franco and Cody Asche hit into force plays at home and Freddy Galvis ended the threat with a routine grounder to second.
''We put ourselves in a good situation to not only tie but possibly win,'' Philadelphia manager Ryne Sandberg said. ''It's a situation where young players were up there and it's something that they'll experience and grow from.''
Starling Marte had three hits and an RBI for Pittsburgh. Gregory Polanco added two hits and Andrew McCutchen drove in two runs as Pittsburgh handed the Phillies their ninth straight road loss
Sean O'Sullivan (1-5) muddled through six innings, walking four with just one strikeout.
Revere got three hits for the Phillies and Franco and Galvis each had two. Philadelphia went 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position and has dropped eight of nine overall.
Philadelphia actually hit Cole harder than the Pirates hit O'Sullivan, but Pittsburgh took advantage of the few opportunities it was given. The Pirates scored a pair of runs in the first when the Phillies twice unsuccessfully tried to throw out the lead runner on a fielder's choice. They added two more in the second on a single, a walk and two infield hits by Marte and McCutchen.
Staked to a 4-1 lead, Cole dug in. Franco doubled leading off the fourth and scored on a groundout by Galvis in the fourth but Cole would not allow another baserunner as the Pirates won their third straight and improved to 21-11 since May 9, the best record in the majors.
''We didn't really just turn it on,'' Cole said. ''We grinded through awhile of some pretty bad baseball. It wasn't like it was a one-game turnaround. It speaks to how we go about our business and you know weather the storm.''
Philadelphia reliever Ken Giles is an emotional guy. Those emotions got the best of him during Friday night's 1-0, 13-inning loss when Giles drew Sandberg's ire for his actions during an eventful inning of work. Giles committed a throwing error, then became animated when ordered to intentionally walk Pedro Alvarez. Giles eventually escaped a bases-loaded jam when he struck out Jordy Mercerto end the eighth. The right-hander waved at Mercer as if shooing him back to the dugout. Sandberg took exception and confronted Giles in the aftermath, leading to a heated exchange in which neither player or manager held back. Giles admitted he got ''a little too fired up'' when the call for an intentional walk came in.
''I'm just out there to compete,'' Giles said. ''I don't like giving freebies. I understand the situation of the game. I just don't like giving freebies. That's about it.''
Giles promised it wouldn't happen again and isn't concerned about it becoming an issue with Sandberg.
''We settled that right after the game,'' he said. ''Everything's buried in the dirt. Nothing to worry about.''
The series concludes on Sunday when Pittsburgh's A.J. Burnett (6-2, 2.11 ERA) faces Cole Hamels(5-5, 3.11). Burnett - who spent last season with the Phillies before turning down a player option to return in 2015, opting to sign with the Pirates instead - earned a 7-2 decision against Philadelphia on May 12. Hamels is 3-2 with a 2.73 ERA in eight career starts against Pittsburgh and gave up two runs in seven innings of a victory over the Pirates on May 13.