PHILADELPHIA -- Perhaps Gerrit Cole is back on track.
The Pirates right-hander allowed two runs in six innings Wednesday night in a 5-2 victory over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. He walked only one and tied a season high with eight strikeouts.
Cole allowed seven runs in 5 1/3 innings in his previous start against the Giants, which concluded a strange June in which he allowed either seven runs (three times) or one run (three times) in six starts. But Cole is 4-1 with a 3.45 ERA in his past four as he put the Pirates in position to take the four-game series with a victory in Thursday night's series finale.
Cole allowed a two-run homer in the first inning to Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco, but allowed just four hits in his final five innings of work.
He also did his part offensively to supplement his good effort on the mound. In the Pirates' four-run fourth inning, Cole stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and slapped a two-run single up the middle to put the Pirates ahead, 4-2, and giving them a lead they would keep.
"He basically Little Leagued the guys tonight. Drives in two and pitches six strong," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. Cole was asked if he had those types of games throughout his youth baseball career when he produced from the mound and at the plate.
"I can recall some games in the big leagues that I've done that … so I guess maybe I Big Leagued them?" Cole replied through a chuckle.
Phillies rookie Ben Lively suffered the shortest outing of his seven-start career. He allowed four runs (two earned) in four innings.
"I just let that one inning get away from me," Lively said, referring to a four-run fourth inning.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Crash and burn: Phillies right fielder Nick Williams crashed hard into the right-field wall with one out in the fourth inning, giving Josh Bell a triple that scored a run to cut the Phillies lead to 2-1. It fell apart for Lively from there.
After David Freese followed with a sacrifice fly to tie the game, Lively allowed a single to Gregory Polanco, a walk to Francisco Cervelli and loaded the bases with a throwing error to first baseman Tommy Joseph. He still had a chance to finish the inning with the game tied, but he allowed a single to Cole.
"I just caught it, and I looked up and thought he was further down the line than he was," Lively said about the throwing error that allowed Jordy Mercer to reach, loading the bases. "Just rushed it."
Nava had a chance: The Phillies had runners at the corners with one out in the seventh when Franco hit a fly ball to right field. Daniel Nava tried to tag and score from third, but Polanco threw a rocket to home plate and Nava was out easily for the inning-ending double play.
"I was straight high school coach, no disrespect to high school coaches," Hurdle said. "I'm yelling, 'Second base, second base! Hey, wait a minute, woah, great play, great play!' ... I called myself out. Greg got behind the ball, saw what was in front of him and made a play and that was a big play."
• Nava excelling for Phils, highlighting value
"I've been in situations where you don't know what's going to happen, whether it's this or in Spring Training, making the team," Nava said. "Those things are so far outside of my control that the more I think on those things, the worse it is for me. I know that that's something I can't control. What I can control is coming to the yard, preparing myself to play, and then going out there and put together good at-bats and put myself in a good position." -- Nava, on possibly being traded to a contender this month after being a non-roster invitee in Spring Training
Pirates: Delaware native Chad Kuhl (2-6, 5.26 ERA) will make his third career start against the Phillies and his second at Citizens Bank Park Thursday in the 6:05 p.m. ET conclusion of the Pirates' four-game series in Philadelphia.
Phillies: Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (5-5, 4.48 ERA) faces the Pirates in Thursday night's series finale. It could be one of his final starts with the Phillies, who could trade him before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Hellickson has been pitching better recently, posting a 2.79 ERA in his last three starts.
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