Cole hitting stride with another gem

“I didn’t see his other games,” Counsell said with a shrug and smile. “He’s given up some runs, yeah, [but] he pitched well tonight. I didn’t think we had poor at-bats. I thought he pitched well.”

Cole has recently found success facing division-leading teams in the National League. The question is whether he is primed to help the Pirates surge back into postseason condition or is auditioning for another team as the Trade Deadline approaches.

Prior to Monday’s start, he tossed a gem against the NL West-leading Rockies on Tuesday, allowing one earned run on three hits over a season-high seven innings — the exact numbers he put up against the Brewers. Cole struck out five and walked two on Monday.

In both of his starts against the Brewers this season, Cole allowed just one earned run in seven innings.

“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,” Counsell said.

Before his outing against Colorado, Cole struggled in four straight starts. In that span, his longest outing was five innings and his ERA rose to from 2.84 to 4.83. Cole had a 10.71 ERA and surrendered double-digit hits three times over those four starts. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle believes his ace’s past two starts are a testament to what Cole is actually capable of.

“The last two outings have been the Cole we’ve seen really, really perform well,” Hurdle said. “It’s nothing we haven’t seen before. … To give up a run in the second and then six zeros around it, just really strong.”

The 26-year-old said he hasn’t altered his routine since his rough stretch of starts and is mostly just focused on being himself on the mound.

“I just talked a little bit about staying over the legs last time,” Cole said. “We created a handful of ground-ball outs this time. I think I’m just being me.”

That focus includes having a locked-in mentality during Monday’s game. After Cole struck out Brewers RBI leader Travis Shaw, who homered in the second inning for Milwaukee’s only run, looking to end the sixth inning, catcher Francisco Cervelli went to give him a fist bump — a gesture Cole accidentally ignored because of his intense focus.

“It was a great pitch call by him,” Cole said. “We slide-stepped him on the fastball on the pitch before. He wanted a slide step curveball there, so it was absolutely the right pitch, and I wasn’t surprised that it worked out because he knew what he wanted to do.”

He even chipped in at the plate with a leadoff single to center field in the Pirates’ four-run seventh inning. He was later scored on Josh Harrison‘s double off Wily Peralta.

Cole's single to center Cole’s single to center

PIT@MIL: Cole lines a single to center in the 7th

Gerrit Cole helps his own cause by leading off the top of the 7th inning with a line-drive single to center field

“I think anytime a pitcher leads off an inning and gets on base, you know, it can lead to some exciting things,” Harrison said. “As a pitcher, he knows how it is. You want to get a guy [pitching] out of the stretch. That’s exactly what he did. As you could see, the ball started rolling there and we were able to put together a good inning.”

Carson Mason is a reporter for MLB.com based in Milwaukee and covered the Pirates on Monday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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