SAN DIEGO -- Gerrit Cole was in ace-caliber form for the first time in 2016, tossing six scoreless frames, as the Pirates won their series finale against the Padres, 11-1, on Thursday night at Petco Park.
Cole struck out seven while allowing only four men to reach base -- all on singles. Given the overworked state of their bullpen, the Pirates needed a quality start from Cole, and their ace delivered.
"It's what one of the better pitchers in the game does," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He was in complete command from his first pitch to his last pitch. It was a big shot in the arm for us."
The Pirates offense gave Cole more than enough support, turning a close contest into a rout with an eight-run seventh inning. Pittsburgh sent 14 men to the plate against the San Diego bullpen in the frame.
"To come in and try to give a quality effort and put us in position to win the game was the main focus," Cole said. "I just thought it was a really clean ballgame. It was great to get out of here with a 'W.'"
Padres starter James Shields was effective for most his of six innings, but he struggled to get the final out on a couple of occasions. He surrendered all three of his runs with two outs -- including one after a pair of fourth-inning wild pitches. Still, Shields wasn't given much support, as the Padres offense didn't push a run across until the eighth on Jon Jay's RBI single.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Stealing a run: With two outs in the fourth inning, Josh Harrison knocked his second RBI single to right field. Then he took matters into his own hands -- or legs, in this case. Harrison stole second base and moved to third on a wild pitch by Shields. With Cole at the plate, Shields bounced an 0-2 pitch and Harrison hustled down the line, diving home to give the Pirates a 3-0 lead.
"I didn't feel like I could do anything else," Padres catcher Christian Bethancourt said. "I went to block the ball, the ball hit my chest, and it went away. … Unfortunately for me, it bounced the other way and didn't stay in front of me."
Blowing it open: Harrison sparked a big seventh-inning rally with, of all things, a strikeout. The second baseman sprinted to first base when Leonel Campos' third strike got away from Bethancourt, and the Pirates went on to score a season-high eight runs in the inning. Harrison reached without a hit in his second at-bat of the frame, drawing a walk. John Jaso, David Freese, Starling Marte and Francisco Cervelli delivered run-scoring hits, and Sean Rodriguez (who entered earlier in the inning as a pinch-runner) pushed in another run with a bases-loaded walk.
"Just go 'til they get three outs. That's pretty much what we did," Harrison said. "Just move the chain. Everybody was having good at-bats, making them work." More >
In the frame, Campos was charged with seven runs (five earned) in a third of an inning in his first appearance since being recalled from Triple-A.
"He's human," said Bethancourt. "We're all human and we all make mistakes. Sometimes we just can't find it. It wasn't his night tonight."
Putting his foot down: After a pair of losses from left-handers Francisco Liriano and Jeff Locke, Cole immediately made it clear the line of shaky starts would stop with him. Cole retired the Padres' first seven batters in order.
"Everything was good," catcher Cervelli said. "He was getting stronger and stronger."
Caught looking: The Padres put a runner in scoring position with less than two outs in both the third and fourth innings, but came away with nothing to show for it. Wil Myers struck out looking on a 97-mph fastball to end the third, and Bethancourt was caught watching a 1-2 changeup in the fourth.
"You saw him really run that changeup over the outside edge to a number of our hitters," said Padres manager Andy Green. "You saw that really more today than what we've seen typically. He mixed probably more than he typically does. He pitched well."
"The first one might have hit the dirt, and he was kind of able to throw his bat out there and get a hit. The second one, that was exactly where I wanted to throw it. And he flipped it out to right. There's nothing you can really do about that." -- Shields on Harrison's two RBI singles More >
"It's great. That means the work that we've been doing is paying off." -- Cervelli, on the Pirates' eight-run inning
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates: Left-hander Jonathon Niese, coming off a strong start against the Brewers on Saturday, will take the mound to begin the Pirates' three-game series against the D-backs at 9:40 p.m. ET on Friday. Niese efficiently shut out Milwaukee for seven innings, putting the ball on the ground and letting Pittsburgh's infield defense go to work. He'll try to do the same at Chase Field, where he is 1-2 with a 6.26 ERA.
Padres:Andrew Cashner, who allowed only one run in his last start, gets the ball as the Padres open a three-game series against the Cardinals at 7:40 p.m. PT Friday night. It'll also be a reunion of sorts for the Friars and infielder Jedd Gyorko, who spent three seasons in San Diego before being dealt to the Cardinals for Jon Jay.