KQV AM 1410

Aug 24, 6:02 PM EDT

Cole struggles again, Pirates fall to Astros, 5th loss in 6


AP Photo
AP Photo/Fred Vuich

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- After seeing rookie Jameson Taillon and newcomer Ivan Nova put together gems the previous two nights against the Houston Astros, the Pittsburgh Pirates hoped to get the same from Gerrit Cole.

Pittsburgh's struggling ace couldn't deliver.

Cole went just five innings and the Pirates fell to Houston 5-4 Wednesday, their fifth loss in six games.

Cole (7-9) allowed five runs in five innings. He has a 6.07 ERA through five August starts.

"I've been trying to look at approaches and maybe see how I can use my stuff better. I thought today there were some good steps in the right direction: some good sliders, some good curveballs for strikes," he said.

"Miss over the plate, and I'm getting punished. That's the bottom line," he said.

Trailing 5-1 entering the fifth, Pittsburgh scored twice in the fifth and once more in the seventh. The comeback bid ended as Ken Giles closed the ninth for his fifth save.

The Astros won the interleague matchup between wild-card contenders for their fifth victory in six games. Houston finished 5-2 on its road trip that began in Baltimore.

Evan Gattis hit his 20th home run and Carlos Correa got two hits and scored twice, helping Collin McHugh earn his first win since July 23. McHugh (8-10) gave up three runs in five innings, ending an 0-4 rut in his last five starts.

Gattis homered in the second, connecting after a single by Correa.

Correa reached on an infield single in the fourth and scored on a triple by Marwin Gonzalez.

George Springer singled to begin the fifth and Alex Bregman followed with a double, setting up sacrifice flies by Jose Altuve and Correa for a 5-1 lead.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Cole's inconsistency has led to his recent dip in performance.

"I hate to sound simplistic. The overall command is coming and going," Hurdle said. "That's just the way it's been. . Some balls elevated in the middle of the plate. Then you see some sequences that are sharp. We're not getting the balls in the area we want to get it often enough or with consistency to minimize opportunities to score."

Jordy Mercer homered in the Pittsburgh third.

The Pirates closed to 5-3 in the fifth on RBI singles by Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco.

Polanco, who hit two home runs Tuesday, tripled home Marte in the seventh.

"He's continued to find a way to plate runs for us. Using all of the field, doing some nice things," Hurdle said. "It speaks to his mentality to hit the ball hard where it's pitched. He's not just up there trying to yank or drill something into the water. He's up there trying to do some damage, trying to hit the ball hard and he's been doing it quite frequently lately. He's been hitting it hard where it has been pitched."

UP NEXT

Astros: Following a day off, Houston will begin a three-game series at home against Tampa Bay on Friday. After allowing one run through seven innings in his last outing, RHP Mike Fiers (9-6, 4.48) will try to repeat that performance against Tampa Bay.

Pirates: Will travel to Milwaukee for the start of a four-game series against the Brewers on Thursday. RHP Chad Kuhl (3-1, 3.62) will look to bounce back from his first major league loss.

© 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.