Jun 7, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Starling Marte (6) reacts with Jung Ho Kang (27) after the final out against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. The Pirates defeated the Braves 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Eleven days ago, after winning six straight games at PNC Park to stick their noses above .500, the Pittsburgh Pirates hit the road, where they had won just nine of their first 23.
After their best 10-game trip in a decade, the Bucs will return to the North Side on even more of a high.
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Gerrit Cole threw seven scoreless innings and Starling Marte knocked in two runs as part of a three-run fifth, as the Pirates improved to 13-3 since May 22 by downing the Atlanta Braves 3-0 on Sunday afternoon at Turner Field.
Pittsburgh (31-25) finished their trek across the nation at 7-3, their best mark in a trip of that length since 2005. The Bucs have taken five of their past six series overall, with the only “blemish” of that run being a four-game split in San Diego last weekend.
The 24-year-old Cole, who started this team’s surge with a near-complete game against the Mets, battled through a lack of command to give the Pirates another opportunity to take home a victory.
Cole walked a season-high three batters and plunked two others, adding to his six hits allowed to give the Braves 11 baserunners in the first seven frames. However, the Bucs’ burgeoning ace whiffed seven, including a pair of strikeouts in the third when the Braves (27-29) loaded the bases with one out.
Atlanta starter Alex Wood was matching Cole zero for zero until the fifth. The lefty fanned Andrew McCutchen in the first to help escape a jam, and Wood got the Bucs’ star center fielder again in the fifth, that time with the bases loaded.
But Marte ensured the latter opportunity wouldn’t go to waste, lining a two-strike breaking ball into right-center field for a 2-0 Pirates lead. Jung Ho Kang cracked an RBI hit to left on the next pitch, rounding out the run-scoring for the day.
Wood was ejected after the inning for arguing balls and strikes with home-plate umpire Mark Carlson. His complaint appeared to center around a one-out walk issued to Cole that featured a couple close pitches called for balls.
Since Cole threw exactly 100 pitches in his previous start, Clint Hurdle allowed the third-year big-leaguer to toss a season-high 116. Cole rewarded his manager’s confidence in the seventh, navigating a one-out single from Cameron Maybin to keep the Braves off the board.
Pirates leadoff hitter Josh Harrison went 3 for 4 with a double and a run scored, pushing the offense to double-digit hits for the second time in the series. Pittsburgh erupted for 14 in Friday’s marathon-like 10-8 victory, but managed just six in Saturday’s 5-4 walkoff loss.
McCutchen had to absorb a rare 0 for 5, but every other Pirates starter reached base at least once. Maybin paced the Braves with three singles, while veteran Juan Uribe had two, including the home team’s lone extra-base hit, a leadoff double in the third.
Guaranteed of holding second place in the National League Central when Monday begins, the Pirates will host the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park over the next three days. A.J. Burnett will confront Jimmy Nelson at 7:05 p.m. to start the series.