PITTSBURGH -- Gerrit Cole may not be out of the woods yet.After allowing three runs over his past three starts and erasing most memories of the worst four-start stretch of his career, Cole took a step backward Friday night. The right-hander gave up seven runs on 11 hits over 5
PITTSBURGH -- Gerrit Cole may not be out of the woods yet.
After allowing three runs over his past three starts and erasing most memories of the worst four-start stretch of his career, Cole took a step backward Friday night. The right-hander gave up seven runs on 11 hits over 5 1/3 innings in the Pirates' 13-5 loss at PNC Park.
Despite Friday's results, Cole seemed more satisfied with his performance than he did at any point during the mystifying slump in which he recorded a 10.71 ERA.
"I think it feels different," Cole said. "There was a lot of good execution out there tonight. I thought, on the flip side, there was a lot of good execution from their perspective."
Not that Cole was simply a victim of bad luck. More of his fastballs found the upper half of the strike zone after a dominant three-start run -- 20 innings of 1.35 ERA ball -- in which he dominated the bottom third of the zone.
"You saw some of it tonight, but not with the consistency that we had seen in the past," manager Clint Hurdle said.
This was a rough night from the start. Denard Span's leadoff homer, the 18th allowed by Cole in 17 starts, proved to be an inauspicious beginning.
"It was a pretty well-executed pitch to Span," Cole said. "He put a well-executed swing on it."
Working with a two-run lead, Cole settled down in the second. The Giants got one back in the third, when Span raced from first to third on an error by Josh Bell and scored on Hunter Pence's line-drive single to right.
"I don't think we had the communication we needed on the call," Hurdle said of the misplay between Bell and Cole. "Then once the ball got in [Bell's] glove, we just needed to hold the ball."
Cole recovered by striking out Buster Posey and Brandon Belt. He could not stop the bleeding in the fourth, however, surrendering five straight two-out singles that led to three runs.
"I feel like we just had our fair share of balls that weren't hit very hard," Cole said. "It just didn't go our way."
Television cameras caught Cole arguing with Hurdle during the bottom of the fourth. Cole was due up third, with two on and the Pirates trailing by two, but he insisted he should hit for himself.
"Just trying to shave off as much work as you can from the bullpen," said Cole, who had thrown 84 pitches in four innings. "We're still in the ballgame. They didn't scorch the ball in the fourth. Just wanted to keep pitching and try to keep us in the game."
He didn't get the bunt down, returned to pitch a clean fifth then gave up singles to two of the three hitters he faced in the sixth. Cole was replaced by Antonio Bastardo, and both inherited runners wound up scoring off reliever Jhan Marinez.
Cole marched off the mound, frustrated but not searching for answers as he was earlier this month.
"Just continue to stick with the process," Cole said. "Just move on."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.