Outfielder Jose Tabata is congratulated by Gaby Sanchez after Tabata hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning Friday against the Diamondbacks at PNC Park.
Matt Freed /Post-Gazette
Neil Walker scores on a hit by Andrew McCutchen in the fifth inning Friday night at PNC Park.
Matt Freed /Post-Gazette
Center fielder Andrew McCutchen slides safely into home plate past Diamondbacks catcher Wil Nieves in the third inning Friday at PNC Park.
Matt Freed /Post-Gazette
Andrew McCutchen breaks his bat hitting a double in the third inning Friday against the Diamondbacks at PNC Park.
By Paul Zeise Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
There is much evidence scattered over the first two months of Gerrit Cole's major league career that suggests he is a fast learner.
Friday night, the Pirates' rookie pitcher offered further proof of his continued growth, making some adjustments to make sure the mistakes he made in a tough fourth inning didn't repeat themselves in the sixth when he saw the same group of Arizona hitters.
The results were six strong innings, his sixth win of the season and a 6-2 victory against the Diamondbacks before a sellout crowd of 39,091 at PNC Park.
It was only Cole's second win since June, but it gave the Pirates (72-49) a much-needed lift and widened their National League Central lead to three games after they came home off a 1-5 road trip.
"You can't really ask for anything more," Cole said about getting a big win in front of a sold out PNC Park during a pennant race.
"The first dream for everybody I'm sure is to get to the big leagues, and the second dream is to [play in big games]," he said. "It was huge to get the team back on track, that's why I was [mad] out there in the fourth inning. We had an opportunity in the third and we struck, and it was my job to go out there and shut them down.
"I'm just thankful my guys picked me up. They played great defense behind me and scored runs the rest of the game, and you can't ask anything more from those guys."
Cole had mostly good control early in the game, but he ran into trouble in the fourth, when he got a little bit wild and struggled to throw strikes.
Adam Eaton led off the inning by flying out to left, but Cole walked the next two batters, Paul Goldschmidt and Aaron Hill. They advanced to second and third on a wild pitch.
Martin Prado singled in Goldschmidt and put Diamondbacks at first and third with one out.
Cole struck out Wil Nieves, but A.J. Pollock tied the score with a two-out single that drove in Hill.
That was the only jam Cole faced. He threw 63 of his 98 pitches for strikes over six innings, allowed two runs and five hits, struck out five and walked two.
The test for Cole came in the sixth when he faced the same part of the Diamondbacks batting order. This time, he made the necessary adjustments and kept them off the bases. His only blemish in the inning was Prado's two-out single.
"The offense picked me up. I had an opportunity to get a shutdown inning and I blew that," Cole said. "The offense helped me out, and we were able to score two runs so I wasn't going to make the same mistakes and walk guys when I went out there in the sixth.
"I didn't make pitches when I had to early in that inning and I didn't make pitches when I had two strikes to them late as well. The second time out, when I had that opportunity. I was going to learn from that inning and I was going to make that adjustment."
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Cole's maturation will take time, but he has a lot of talent and works hard.
He said it was clear that Cole made adjustment between the fourth and the sixth, when he was handed a two-run lead a second time.
"He stayed aggressive, and I think his fastball came into play and, really, for the first time in the game he was able to get the ball in on some right-handers," Hurdle said.
"He stayed aggressive, he hit spots and his breaking ball came into play and by far and away after he got the two-run lead back he was able to find that command.
"I thought to [keep it at 2-2], he was able come back in, and we were able to spend some time with him. He was able to settle down and he finished strong. We needed him to get us to the sixth, and he was able to do that for us."
The Pirates grabbed a 2-0 lead in the third thanks to a two-out RBI single by Pedro Alvarez that drove home Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen.
Walker and McCutchen also were at the heart of the Pirates' second two-run rally in the fifth after the Diamondbacks had tied the score.
Starling Marte's one-out single started the rally, and Walker followed with an RBI double. McCutchen drove Walker home with a single to make it 4-2.
Jose Tabata gave the Pirates a 6-2 lead in the eighth with a two-out, two-run homer over the right-field wall.
Tabata said he feels like he is starting to settle in.
"I am just putting in my 100 percent to help us win the game," he said.
"I asked my hitting coach what they would throw me [in the eighth] and I went up there looking for one pitch and he threw it. You guys see what happened."
Jeanmar Gomez pitched a scoreless seventh and eighth, and Mark Melancon pitched a perfect ninth to finish off the Diamondbacks (62-58).