MLB Team Report - Pittsburgh Pirates - INSIDE PITCH

ATLANTA -- Gerrit Cole is gaining a reputation at Mr. September in the Pittsburgh Pirates' rotation.

For his career, Cole is 7-1 with a 2.98 ERA in nine September starts. Cole starts Tuesday against the Atlanta Braves in a game that could clinch Pittsburgh's spot in the playoffs. The Pirates have a magic number of two.

"It jumps out you when you see it on paper, especially a pitcher who's just gotten through his first full season of major league ball," manager Clint Hurdle said of Cole's late-season success. "We counted on him heavily last year, and we'll count on him heavily again."

Cole won each of his past three starts, beating the Chicago Cubs twice and the Boston Red Sox. Over that span, he struck out 21 batters in 19 innings and posted a 1.11 walks-plus-hits-per-inning-pitched ratio. In his other September start, Cole lost to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Cole bounced back nicely from spending time on the disabled list with a sore right lat. He was sidelined from July 9 to Aug. 19, but he returned to go 3-1 with a 3.99 ERA in six starts since being reinstated.

"It's been a shot in the arm for us," Hurdle said before the Pirates' 1-0 win over the Atlanta Braves on Monday. "The September record he posted, the way he's pitched since returning from the DL, he's added a little polish, added a little bit more pitchability.

"He's been a good pitcher at times. He can get out there and start throwing. Now the sequence of pitches, using all his pitches, used his curveball the other night more than he has in all his previous starts, better command. He competes. He has an edge when he's out there,"

For the season, Cole is 10-5 with a 3.85 ERA. He has started 20 games, striking out 118 and walking 38 in 124 innings.

Cole is almost automatic at home, where he is 5-1 with a 3.39 ERA.


MLB Team Report - Pittsburgh Pirates - NOTES, QUOTES

RECORD: 85-71

STREAK: Won two

NEXT: Pirates (RHP Gerrit Cole, 10-5, 3.85 ERA) at Braves (LHP Alex Wood, 11-10, 2.78 ERA)


--RHP Gerrit Cole (10-5, 3.85) starts Tuesday at Atlanta. He is coming off a 3-2 win over the Red Sox in which he allowed two runs over seven innings. He finished with seven strikeouts and no walks. Cole won each of his past three starts. He has made only one career start against Atlanta and received no-decision after allowing two runs in six innings Aug. 20. Cole has a career mark of 7-1 in September.

--LHP Francisco Liriano pitched six shutout innings Monday at Atlanta. He allowed three hits and four walks and struck out seven. Over his past 28 innings dating back to Aug. 31, Liriano has allowed one earned run (0.32 ERA). He gave up two or fewer runs in 12 of his past 13 starts. He improved to 2-1 for his career against Atlanta. Liriano never pitched at Turner Field before Monday. He now has appeared at every current major league stadium except Marlins Park.

--CF Andrew McCutchen hit his 24th home run of the season Monday, the second most of his career behind the 31 he hit in 2012. It was his 14th homer away from PNC Park, tying him for fourth-most road homers in the NL.