"Today, we just got out-pitched," said Cole, obviously not giving himself enough credit.
In his six, he allowed seven hits, punched out eight and had both runs off him score on outs. In one more inning, Lester allowed two more hits, had one fewer strikeout and gave up a homer, to Sean Rodriguez.
Nevertheless, Cole wore the Pirates' fourth consecutive loss.
"I would've liked to have pitched a little bit better," he said. "Yeah, I looked forward to try to get us back on track, and (Lester) beat me today."
Cole gave it his all -- including a uniform and several pounds -- to avoid that. He had to change jerseys in mid-game because his first one was absolutely drenched, and throwing 107 pitches in the Illinois humidity also had him sweat off weight.
Cole ended his day by fanning David Ross on a 97-mph fastball -- after his 106th pitch to him had clocked 99 mph.
"I felt that the fastball was a good weapon today," Cole acknowledged, "but I used it as a crutch. I kept throwing it a lot, because I seemed to locate it down in the zone."
Along with his manager, Cole gave the Cubs hitters some credit for maxing out his pitch count by the end of the sixth.
"Their lineup has competed well all year, stretching counts out on pitchers," Clint Hurdle said. "[Cole] got into some fistfights out there."
"They're a little more connected throughout the lineup," said Cole, who felt home-plate umpire Chris Segal also contributed to his rising pitch total. "I was getting the corners early in the counts, and wasn't getting them late so, yeah, it was a little bit frustrating."