Sano was in the lineup as the Twins' DH -- which the Pirates did not employ in keeping with manager Clint Hurdle's spring mission to improve his pitchers' bat work. On cue, Cole led off the third with a ringing double high off the left-field wall, but Alex Meyer escaped a first-and-third, none out jam by eventually fanning Starling Marte for the third out with the bases loaded.
The Bucs had grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first on two-out doubles off Ricky Nolasco by Andrew McCutchen -- his first hit of the spring -- and Neil Walker.
Cole went three innings, allowing only the run on Sano's homer, the first off a Pittsburgh starter in five games.
"Left a first-pitch fastball over the plate, and he was up there to swing," Cole said. "It felt fine. I didn't have to push it, and the fact I felt like I probably could've gone another [inning] is encouraging."
Up next: The Twins travel north to face the Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla., on Tuesday at 12:05 p.m. CT. Right-hander Kyle Gibson is set to make his second Grapefruit League start after giving up a run in two innings against the Red Sox last time out. Other pitchers expected to see action include Tim Stauffer, Stephen Pryor, Ryan Pressly, A.J. Achter and Michael Tonkin.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.