ATLANTA -- After being swept by the Brewers last weekend, the Pirates turned to Gerrit Cole and rewarded their ace's latest strong effort with a sixth-inning offensive flurry that provided a much-needed 5-3 over win the Braves on Tuesday night at Turner Field.
The Pirates snapped a three-game losing streak and began what they hope will evolve into a successful playoff surge with the assistance of the four-run sixth, ending Mike Foltynewicz's once-promising night. Cole won his second straight start, allowing two runs -- one earned -- and seven hits over five innings. The right-hander has produced a 1.35 ERA over his past three starts.
"I think I've just kind of stayed within myself and tried to help the young guys out when the opportunity presents itself," Cole said of his role in the rotation. "I'll just continue to try to do that and just keep trying to do my job. I think one of the best ways to lead is by example."
Jung Ho Kang's RBI double and Adam Frazier's two-run single highlighted the four-run sixth produced against Foltynewicz, who might have gained a better fate had Jace Peterson not bobbled Gregory Polanco's potential double-play grounder in the decisive frame. Matt Kemp went hitless in his debut for the Braves, who received a solo home run and RBI single from fellow outfielder Nick Markakis.
"The big thing for these guys is getting through that sixth inning, that third time through the order," Braves manager Brian Snitker said of Foltynewicz, who has now made 28 career starts. "That's kind of the growth spurt kind of thing we're going through right now. He was throwing the ball really well."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Frazier feeling it: After his team failed to record a hit through the first four innings, Frazier stepped into the box with one out and a runner on first in the fifth and worked a 13-pitch at-bat, where he fouled off nine pitches before doubling to right. The hit set the table for Jordy Mercer's RBI groundout in the next at-bat. An inning later, the Pirates utility man, and Georgia native, hit a two-out, two-run double down the third-base line to give Pittsburgh a comfortable 5-2 lead. Over his past 11 games, Frazier is hitting .379 (11-for-29) with six extra-base hits. More >
"I missed a couple of pitches to hit early, and from then on I was in a hole and just trying to battle," said Frazier about the 13-pitch at-bat. "Finally, I don't know after how many pitches, I got the barrel to it. It was a tough at-bat, and I was just trying to fight. Being down 1-0 right there and no-hit at the time, needed that for the team."
From no-no to oh, no! Foltynewicz didn't allow a hit to the first 15 Pirates he faced, but he faltered after hitting Francisco Cervelli on the side of the batting helmet with a 82.8 mph changeup in the fifth. After Cervelli exited, Frazier followed with his 13-pitch at-bat, which resulted in the first of the four hits the Braves right-hander allowed within a span of the final eight batters faced. Kang's RBI double ended Foltynewicz's 103-pitch night.
"I did a good job of controlling that fifth inning, but the sixth inning came around and things kind of got out of control," Foltynewicz said. "They were actually, finally hitting me in the sixth inning and putting the ball in play. Next time around, I'll try to stay confident and stay aggressive."
Pirates debut new-look 'pen: After being acquired from the Mets on Monday in exchange for Jonathon Niese, Antonio Bastardo pitched a perfect sixth in his return to the Pirates. The lefty was the first of three relievers that bridged the gap between Cole and newly minted closer Tony Watson. In his first save opportunity since Mark Melancon was traded to the Nationals on Saturday, Watson navigated a leadoff walk to Gordon Beckham in the ninth to earn his first save since April 22, 2015, and the sixth of his Major League career.
"There was the clean inning from Bastardo, and then everybody else had to work at least a little bit out of the stretch. But they've done it," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "It was good to see Bastardo get involved right away. He was efficient with his outing. … I thought it was very important to get Watson out there with a clean start, and he picked up his first save as the closer. All four of them posted up extremely well for us."
Kemp's ATL debut: Playing for the first time since the Braves acquired him from the Padres on Saturday, Kemp went hitless in four at-bats and struck out to end the game. The veteran outfielder drew a two-out walk ahead of Markakis' two-out single in the fifth inning, but he also stranded runners at second and third base when he struck out against Neftali Feliz to end the seventh inning. More >
"[Cole] got really tough when he got runners on base. His velocity spiked and his location was really good. He made pitches when he got in trouble." -- Snitker, on the Pirates' starter
The Pirates issued an unsuccessful challenge in the sixth after Polanco grounded out to second baseman Peterson. A replay review showed Peterson's throw beat Polanco to first, and the call was confirmed. The ground out moved John Jaso to second and positioned Matt Joyce to spark the four-run frame by following with a RBI single.
"He hit it hard and it was right at me," Peterson said. "Yeah, I want to get two there, but I was fortunate to get one. You always want to get one out, two would have been better, but I still got an out."
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates:Jeff Locke will make his first start for Pittsburgh since giving up five runs on seven hits and five walks over just three innings vs. the Brewers on July 20. The left-hander pitched two innings of scoreless relief against the Mariners on July 26 and will look to translate what he learned in the bullpen to his return to the rotation. First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m. ET.
Home team: Atlanta will counter with Rob Whalen in the middle game of this three-game set against Pittsburgh. Whalen, who was acquired from the Mets last year, will be making his Major League debut. He has posted a 2.40 ERA while combining to make 21 starts for Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett this year.