PITTSBURGH (AP) — In his second start since coming off the disabled list, Gerrit Cole felt more like himself.
It still wasn’t enough to outpitch Zach Eflin.
Eflin threw his first major-league shutout to overshadow Cole’s six strong innings, and the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-0 Friday night.
Cole allowed one run on six hits with seven strikeouts over six innings for Pittsburgh, which entered with the majors’ best record since June 24.
“I’ve been working hard. Tonight was obviously a good step in the right direction,” Cole said. “Not the outcome that we wanted or necessarily the results that we wanted, but I had to make some pitches and got the ball on the ground. A good bounce-back start after Washington. That was frustrating.”
Cole (5-6) was tagged for five runs on seven hits in four innings against the Nationals on July 16, the righty’s first start since June 10 because of a right triceps strain.
He was much better Friday but was lifted for a pinch hitter after a sixth inning in which he escaped by allowing only one run following loading the bases with no outs.
“He did a very good job in the sixth inning to finish that off,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “One walk, seven strikeouts. First-pitch strikes were 18 out of 26. I thought he pitched well.”
But not as well as Eflin (3-3), who had six strikeouts, allowed three hits and did not walk a batter as he threw 100 pitches for his second complete game over his past four outings. In the majors for just 39 days, the 22-year-old is one of only seven pitchers to have multiple complete games this season.
“I was able to stay ahead and get quick outs,” Eflin said. “All four of my pitches were working today.”
Cameron Rupp had a home run and three RBIs and Odubel Herrera had three hits and scored twice for the Phillies, who entered having lost four of five.
John Jaso had two of the Pirates’ three hits, including their only one for extra bases (a leadoff double in the second).
“I thought the sixth inning was going to come back to haunt us when we didn’t score,” said Phillies manager Pete Mackanin, whose team had lost its past six at PNC Park dating to 2014.
“It was a good game for us; we haven’t won a lot of games here over the last few years so it was good to at least set the tone for this series.”
Jaso twice advanced to second base, but no baserunner reached third against Eflin, who has allowed 11 earned runs over his past seven outings since allowing nine in his major-league debut June 14 at Toronto.
The closest the Pirates appeared to come to scoring was when Herrera made a leaping grab at the wall in center on a ball Jung Ho Kang hit in the fifth.
Eflin faced 29 Pirates in collecting 27 outs.
“He kept the ball out of the middle, he changed locations, he changed velocity, kept it down,” Hurdle said. “It was a mix of everything.”
The clubs exchanged plunking the opponent’s No. 3 hitter with pitches in the first inning. Philadelphia’s Maikel Franco left the game during the fourth — three innings after he was hit in the left wrist by a 96-mph fastball by Cole — for what the team said were precautionary reasons. Eflin responded by hitting Andrew McCutchen in the bottom of the first, drawing a warning to both benches from home plate umpire Tony Randazzo. Two more Phillies, however, were hit by pitches over the remainder of the game.
Pirates: A day after being a late scratch from the lineup because of flu-like symptoms, OF Starling Marte was back in left field and batting cleanup Friday.
Phillies: RHP Aaron Nola (5-8, 4.41) is coming off an outing in which he pitched six shutout innings Monday against Miami.
Pirates: Hurdle confirmed after the game that the club intends on having RHP Tyler Glasnow make his second major league start Saturday. One of the game’s top pitching prospects, Glasnow has a 1.94 ERA and 122 strikeouts in 102 innings for Triple-A Indianapolis.