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Gerrit Cole shuts down Diamondbacks in 4-1 win

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Pirates built an early lead and Gerrit Cole went 7.2 strong innings in a 4-1 win over the Diamondbacks. The victory was the Pirates' third in a row, opening a nine-game road trip on a positive note.

Cole, who was touching as high as 96 miles per hour in the eighth inning, had seven strikeouts versus just two walks, allowing one run on seven hits.

Neil Walker's single drove in Gregory Polanco in the first inning, Josh Harrison's double plated Jordy Mercer and Cole in the second and the Pirates led 3-0 by the time local TV switched over from the Penguins game.

Walker drove in Andrew McCutchen for an insurance run on an eighth-inning double -- against a no-doubles defense, as the TV commentators pointed out.

Cole escaped a couple minor jams, stranding seven runners. Arizona's only run came in the sixth, when Chris Owings' infield single plated Paul Goldschmidt. Walker made a nice stop, and a strong throw would've gotten Goldschmidt at the plate. The throw bounced most of the way home and still almost got him. Goldschmidt was ruled safe originally and the call was upheld on the Pirates' challenge.

Jared Hughes relieved Cole in the eighth, getting a reassuring strikeout of Owings.

Mark Melancon had his second 1-2-3 inning for a save in consecutive days, going through the 7-8-9 spots of the Diamondbacks' batting order despite again not breaking 90 on the radar gun. The pessimist would say this builds false hope for Melancon as he's kept in a high-leverage role, creeping towards disaster. The optimist would say he's still having success while figuring out his issues with his release point and velocity.

The Pirates are over .500 for the first time this season.