If Gerrit Cole could rewind time, he might go back to the start of the game Saturday and take some focus off the specific hitter in the batter's box, and channel it to his own delivery.
The New York Mets chased Cole after four innings, stole five bases, and ran to a 5-3 win at PNC Park in Cole's return to the mound.
He was officially reinstated from the disabled list Saturday after a bout with shoulder fatigue, and suffered rare problems with his command.
Cole said he had little feel when the ball left his hand, but felt very good physically and refused to speculate on whether a rehabilitation start could have helped him.
"I think I was a little results-oriented probably early, trying to avoid the hits or trying to do this or trying to do that," Cole said. "I think that's a mentality you can have maybe in September. It's important just to be able to nail your delivery and throw quality pitches, which kind of escaped me."
Stolmy Pimentel was sharp in four shutout innings of relief, striking out seven, and Ernesto Frieri made his Pirates debut with a perfect ninth.
The Pirates trailed, 5-0, and chipped away with two runs in the fourth and a third in the fifth, but never reached base in the final four innings.
Cole gave up three runs in the first on four hits and a wild pitch, and used 26 pitches. He gave up two more runs in the second.
Eric Young Jr. and Curtis Granderson each walked and moved into scoring position on a double steal. The two scored when Daniel Murphy stroked a one-out single to make it 5-0.
Cole was visited twice by pitching coach Ray Searage through two innings.
Manager Clint Hurdle also would not speculate on whether or not a rehabilitation assignment might have served Cole better.
"Hindsight is 20-15, so we're past hindsight," said Hurdle. "He'd been out a while. I think there's many experiences this young man is going to go through. This is one of them, from being down and coming back.
"You can work on a lot of things, then when you get in a game and get runners on base that's always going to be your next challenge when you come back."
By the end of the fourth, Cole's pitch count soared to 93. In the inning, Cole endured a 10-pitch at-bat by Murphy that ended with a groundout and included a deep fly ball to right field that just hooked foul.
"Foul balls. Not a lot of early contact, not a lot of consecutive quality strikes getting into rhythm," said Cole. "A few walks in there. So, just not real good. ... It is what it is and unfortunately put us in a spot [Saturday] that we couldn't really get out of. But the only thing I can do about it now is take care of business the next few days and take the ball again."
The Pirates loaded the bases in the fourth and plated two runs on back-to-back bases-loaded walks by Mets starter Jonathon Niese.
Starling Marte pinch-hit for Cole when his turn in the order came up, but Marte struck out looking on a low inside fastball that drew some ire from the Pirates bench.
Gregory Polanco was stymied by a curveball and struck out swinging to end the inning.
Cole's outing was over. He gave up seven hits, five earned runs, walked three and struck out four. He threw one wild pitch.
Neil Walker singled in Gaby Sanchez in the fifth to cap a three-hit, two-out rally, but it ended as Pedro Alvarez grounded out to the shortstop.
The Pirates never reached base again after Walker's single.
Pimentel was a bright spot, showing excellent command and providing important depth.
"A really good body of relief work," said Hurdle. "Held 'em down. The split played, the slider, nice finish to the fastball. You saw the velocity. Great day for him to get out and pitch, carry us through and give everybody in the bullpen a breather."
The two clubs meet against at 1:35 p.m. today. The Pirates hold the series edge, 2-1.
Pitches thrown by Gerrit Cole in four innings of his first start since coming off the disabled list. Of 22 batters faced, 10 reached base.
Jenn Menendez: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @JennMenendez