Rookie pitcher Gerrit Cole got into some trouble early Friday night in his return to PNC Park.
Cole threw four consecutive balls to open the game, loaded the bases, then gave up three runs before his pitch count hit 30.
But his recovery was strong and run support was swift as the Pirates scored seven runs in the second inning to beat the Milwaukee Brewers, 10-3.
The win stretched the Pirates' win streak to seven games, and pulled the team a half-game ahead of St. Louis in the National League Central Division before the Cardinals played late in Oakland.
"He got some adversity right away. His command wasn't there. Didn't really have much of a secondary arsenal to go to initially," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "After the first inning he just met the demands of the game. Met the demands of the game and got through six [innings]. He was able to compete and complete the outing from our perspective."
Cole went six innings, giving up eight hits, three runs, three walks, hitting one batter and striking out three, for the fourth win of his career.
"I mean, when stuff doesn't go your way early and we're able to make plays and pick me up you definitely walk away from this with your head held high," Cole said. "We're fortunate we were able to put up seven runs and play good defense, like we've been playing."
Relief pitcher Ryan Reid pitched three scoreless innings to earn his first major league save.
After trailing, 3-0, in the opening half of the first, the Pirates used a seven-run second to chase starter Jason Hellweg in his major league debut.
Hellweg completed just 12/3 innings and gave up the seven runs on six hits, two walks, and one strikeout. Five runs were earned.
"They always say hitting's contagious," said Andrew McCutchen, who went 3 for 5 with a home run. "I guess it showed that inning. We never faced that guy before. Not to have any excuses [but] it's a little tough to see the first inning or so with that shadow and the sun out. Got a guy, with that big of a frame, he's a real big guy throwing sinkers like that made it a little tough the first inning.
"After that we settled in, sun went down, shadow went away and we got some hits."
Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez each singled to lead off the second before Neil Walker lined a double to center field to drive in two runs.
Then the floodgates opened.
Jordy Mercer advanced the runners on a grounder to second, Cole walked in his first at-bat then Sterling Marte drove in Walker to tie the score.
Russell Martin went up the middle to score Travis Snider, who walked, and Cole to make it 5-3. McCutchen drove in Marte and Alvarez hit to the opposite field to drive in Martin to make it 7-3.
It was the second time in three games that the Pirates chased a starter in less than two innings.
The Pirates added a run in the third, sixth and eighth.
Marte nearly hit for the cycle with a deep ball to the warning track in the eighth. Two batters later McCutchen hit a solo homer to center to make it 10-3.
Cole struggled with his first batter, walking Nori Aoki before loading the bases with two singles by Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez.
He plunked Aramis Ramirez just above the belt, which scored a run to make it 1-0.
By the end of the first he had given up three runs on four hits, before getting out of the inning on a 6-4-3 double play and fly ball to left.
"My focus didn't change after I gave up the three in the first," Cole said. "My goal was to keep grinding it out. I kind of looked back on [Charlie Morton's] performance in Anaheim when he gave up five. He was able to set the tone. We ended up battling, getting the win out there.
"That's all I was trying to do. Keep grinding and get as deep as I [could] like he did."
The sellout crowd of 36,875 was the fifth of the season, and fourth consecutive at PNC Park.
First Published June 29, 2013 1:00 AM