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Gerrit Cole falters as Pirates lose 5-4

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Justin Berl/Getty Images

Gerrit Cole allowed five runs as the Pirates lost 5-4 to drop their series against the Astros Wednesday..

Cole had the kind of start frustrating to Bucs fans who would like to see him as an ace. He did strike out four and walk just one, but made numerous down-the-middle mistakes, leading to five Astros runs. One of those was on a fastball to Evan Gattis with a runner on in the second; Gattis blasted off to center. In the fourth, he allowed an RBI triple to Marwin Gonzalez, and in the fifth, hits by George Springer and Alex Bregman led to a pair of sacrifice flies. Cole left after five.

The Pirates' offense did keep it close. Jordy Mercer hit his ninth homer of the year, a solo shot, in the third. In the fifth, Mercer and John Jaso singled and came home on singles by Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco, respectively. And in the seventh, Matt Joyce doubled and came around on Polanco's triple, with both hitters catching right fielder Springer badly out of position.

Jared Hughes, Juan Nicasio, Felipe Rivero and Tony Watson pitched the late innings and did well (although Rivero did walk two). But that proved to be too little, too late.

The loss dropped the Pirates two three games behind the Cardinals and 1.5 games back of the Marlins in the Wild Card chase. Both those teams play tonight.