Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole delivers a pitch. File photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
MILWAUKEE -- Gerrit Cole is starting to look like an ace again.
The Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander turned in a second consecutive seven-inning, one-run performance as the Pirates handed the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers an 8-1 thumping Monday night at Miller Park.
"He's a big leaguer," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's pitched really well throughout his career. The last two outings have been the Cole that we've seen. Really performed well. Really strong."
Cole (5-6) had been struggling of late, posting an ERA over 10 in a four-start stretch, but he turned things around last week when he held the Colorado Rockies to a run over seven innings. He picked up right where he left off, holding Milwaukee to three hits and two walks while striking out five in his sixth seven-inning effort of the season.
"We made a lot of good pitches and kept them off balance just enough," Cole said of himself and catcher Francisco Cervelli. "It was a good opportunity for us to get the road trip started on a high note. We played a nice game tonight."
The only blemish on Cole's line came in the second, when Brewers third baseman Travis Shaw led off the inning with his 13th home run of the season, giving Milwaukee a 1-0 lead. But the Brewers, who have scored their last 16 runs via home runs, couldn't get much going against Cole, who stranded his final four base runners.
"We certainly didn't do anything offensively tonight," Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said. "Gerrit Cole was really good tonight. He pitched a nice game. That's really good stuff tonight, for sure. He threw a bunch of strikes, and not much really good for us to hit. He threw some really good changeups, even to our right-handed hitters, and we couldn't get much going."
Pittsburgh's offense took the lead back in the third on a two-run single by Adam Frazier. The Pirates had a chance to do some real damage in the inning, loading the bases against Brewers starter Matt Garza, but couldn't cash in.
"We shifted right, they hit it left," Garza said. "We shifted left, they hit it right. It was just ground ball after ground ball."
Garza (3-3) blanked Pittsburgh in the fourth and fifth innings but was chased in the sixth after Andrew McCutchen's 13th home run of the season made it a 4-1 game.
"I should have probably thrown to a different spot," said Garza, who allowed four runs on six hits and a pair of walks with three strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings in his second start since coming off the disabled list for whiplash-like symptoms. "He's the type of guy who, if you fall into a pattern, he'll clip you. I fell into a pattern, threw too many fastballs and he hit it out."
Wily Peralta got Garza out of the inning without further damage but allowed a leadoff single to Cole and a walk to Frazier to open the seventh. Josh Harrison doubled to drive in Cole and make it a 5-1 game, and the Pirates added two more when Gregory Polanco singled to left.
Josh Bell struck out for the first out of the inning but McCutchen drove in another with a single before Paulo Espino took over and ended the inning with a double play.
"We are capable of playing a good team game," Hurdle said. "We've shown the ability to be resilient. Cole started everything off the mound. He was in attack mode from pitch one. He was really good at the bottom of the zone again. He pitched in very well with the fastball. The change-up showed up really well from the first time he used it. All four pitches. Good mix. The offense stayed on Garza. A couple of big swings. McCutchen. What a beautiful swing he put on that ball."
NOTES: The Pirates have won seven of their last eight games in Milwaukee but are still just 37-82 at Miller Park dating back to the 2003 season.... Milwaukee released RHP Neftali Feliz, who was designated for assignment last Wednesday after going 1-5 with a 6.00 ERA in 29 appearances. ... Milwaukee's last 16 runs have all come via home runs, setting a franchise record. ... Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen had two hits Monday, extending his hitting streak at Miller Park to nine games. He has hit 29 home runs against the Brewers since arriving in the majors in 2009. ... The Brewers have lost two of their last three games but remain 1 1/2 games ahead of the Cubs in the NL Central.