ATLANTA -- Gerrit Cole and Alex Wood were producing an impressive pitchers' duel until Cole drew a one-out walk during a three-run fifth inning that propelled the Pirates to Sunday afternoon's 3-0 win over the Braves at Turner Field.
"It's a testament to how well we've played," Cole said. "There's been really good defense behind me, and we've hit the ball enough to win nine games. Seems like every time I go out there, we're really crisp."
After issuing a one-out walk to Cole, Wood encountered a bases-loaded threat that he quieted with a strikeout of Andrew McCutchen. But the Braves left-hander then surrendered consecutive singles to Starling Marte and Jung Ho Kang before being ejected by home-plate umpire Mark Carlson after he completed the top of the fifth.
Cole drew the Braves' ire when he hit Freddie Freeman and Andrelton Simmons with pitches within the first four innings. But the right-hander cruised to his National League-leading ninth win while limiting the Braves to six hits over seven innings with seven strikeouts.
"We had our chances, but that's why [Cole] is one of the better younger pitchers around," Braves center fielder Cameron Maybin said. "He's a bulldog. You've just got to give him credit. He made his pitches when he needed to."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Escape artist: Cole aggravated a third-inning jam by hitting Freeman with a pitch to load the bases with one out, then took control -- fanning Nick Markakis and getting Juan Uribe on an inning-ending grounder to third. That escape left hitters 0-for-6 with the bases loaded this season against Cole, and it became 0-for-7 when he avoided another jam in the sixth by striking out Joey Terdoslavich. Cole also pitched around Uribe's leadoff double in the second with groundouts by A.J. Pierzynski and Simmons before Todd Cunningham's fly out to left. More >
Wood's fifth: After Freeman and Simmons were hit by pitches, Wood seemingly sent a message by opening Cole's fifth-inning plate appearance with an inside fastball that backed the Pirates' ace off the plate. He ended up walking Cole on a 3-2 fastball that Carlson ruled missed the corner of the plate. Carlson did not issue warnings until Brandon Cunniff threw behind McCutchen in the seventh inning. More >
McCutchen comes up a little gimpy: The Bucs' All-Star center fielder was unable to fully run out a ninth-inning grounder as he felt new discomfort in his left knee, but remained in the game defensively. He wore a big ice pack around the knee after the game, but shook it off as insignificant.
"I'm not Superman. I'd like to be, but I'm not," McCutchen said. "It just felt a littleoff."
"I know Woody, and we love him to death as a competitor, but he still can't get himself close to getting thrown out there. We didn't do anything offensively after that, but I'd rather have Woody give you a couple more innings and stay in the fight there." -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, on Wood's ejection
"I mean, it probably hurt." -- Cole, on Simmons staring him down following a hit by pitch in the fourth inning
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Braves went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11 runners. This marked just the eighth time dating back to 1995 that they stranded as many as 11 runners in a shutout loss. The most recent instance had occurred during a June 6, 2009 loss to the Brewers.
The set with the Braves was the Pirates' 14th three-game series of the season, but only the third to go down to a rubber game. The Bucs have won all three of those.
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates:A.J. Burnett, seeking to win a seventh straight start, faces the Brewers at 7:05 p.m. ET Monday night as the Bucs kick off an eight-game stand at PNC Park and a brief return to intradivisional play.
Braves:Shelby Miller will attempt to bounce back from his worst start of the season when he takes the mound for Monday's series opener against the Padres at Turner Field at 7:10 p.m. ET. San Diego's roster includes three former Atlanta players -- Craig Kimbrel, Justin Upton and Melvin Upton Jr.