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Postgame: Bucs get another quality start in 5-2 win

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Cole gives Bucs another quality start

Gerrit Cole threw 41 pitches, faced 12 batters and allowed two runs in the first two innings. In the next four, he was almost perfect — throwing 55 pitches, facing the minimum 12 hitters and allowing one hit and no runs.

What changed?

"Increased fastball usage," Clint Hurdle said. "He threw approximately 20 breaking balls in the outing and 74-75 fastballs. And over a dozen of them (breaking balls) were in the first two innings. I think he was caught in between [pitches] early."

Along with throwing it more often, his fastball velocity increased as the game went on, which allowed Cole to mix in his breaking balls more effectively, Hurdle remarked.

"We finished a lot guys going up [in the zone]," Chris Stewart said. "He made some good pitches early on with his off speed stuff, but they happened to hit it."

Cole continued his early season success at inducing ground balls. Today, 13 of the 17 balls that were put in play against him were hit on the ground. Over three starts, his ground ball rate is up to 65.1 percent, which is an almost 16 percent increase over his career average.

"Pretty good day," Cole said. "I was able to make adjustments as we got deeper in the ballgame. I started locating my fastball better and I think that kind of kept them off balance."

The Pirates starters have put together eight quality starts over the first 12 games of the season.

Alvarez goes deep again; Stewart returns and hits key two-run single

Pedro Alvarez hit a solo home run in the bottom of the third to put the Pirates ahead 3-2. It was his fourth home run of the season. In Pirates history, he trails only Barry Bonds (six) and Willie Stargell (five) for most games with a home run over the first 12 games of the season.

Chris Stewart received his first start of the season and hit a key two-run single in the sixth inning to give the Pirates some breathing room, 5-2.

"First two at bats I was a little out of whack," Stewart said. "The third at bat I had two men on and I told myself to stay just calm and comfortable up there. Get a ball up so I can drive it to the outfield."

Mercer bruised

Jordy Mercer squared to bunt and got hit square in the chest by a fastball that got away from Matt Garza.

Hurdle didn't suspect any intent on Garza's behalf.

"If you look at Garza's reaction to what happened, I think that's the last place he wanted that pitch to go," Hurdle said. "That would be my initial take on it."

"I feel all right," Mercer said afterwards. "I feel better than I was. It's one of those things where I've never been hit there before and I just couldn't catch my breath."

Mercer's X-rays came back negative and he described his injury as "just a bruise."