By Sam Bush

The Phillies helped set a benchmark for the 2015 season Saturday.

Unfortunately, the mark was achieved by a Pirates’ pitcher.

Gerrit Cole allowed two runs in six innings to become the first pitcher in the majors to 10 victories this season after reliever Tony Watson escaped a precarious eighth inning as Pittsburgh edged the Phillies 4-3.

Cole (10-2) struck out seven without a walk to trim his ERA to a major-league best 1.71 while winning his fifth consecutive start. The 24-year-old improved to 14-2 dating to last September when closer Mark Melancon worked a perfect ninth for his 20th save.

“We’ve played really, really well out there as a unit every time I’ve stepped on the hill,” Cole said. “Whether that has to do with my performance, I’m not quite sure. I think it has to do with the mentality that we bring.”

A mentality that sits just fine with the hyper-intense Cole. He gave up a leadoff hit in each of the first four innings but settled down to retire the final nine batters he faced.

“He’s learning how to pitch now and he has an idea of what he wants to do and how to do it,” Pirates third baseman Josh Harrison said. “He’s dangerous.”

The Phillies wasted a chance to tie the game in the eighth off Watson. Ben Revere led off with a double and scored on a pinch-hit single by Jeff Francoeur to pull the Phils within one. The Phillies then loaded the bases with no outs, only to come up with nothing. Maikel Franco and Cody Asche hit into force plays at home and Freddy Galvis ended the threat with a routine grounder to second.

“We put ourselves in a good situation to not only tie but possibly win,” Phils manager Ryne Sandberg said. “It’s a situation where young players were up there and it’s something that they’ll experience and grow from.”

Starling Marte had three hits and an RBI for Pittsburgh. Gregory Polanco added two hits and Andrew McCutchen drove in two runs as Pittsburgh handed the Phillies their ninth straight road loss

Sean O’Sullivan (1-5) muddled through six innings, walking four with just one strikeout.

Revere got three hits for the Phillies and Franco and Galvis each had two. Philadelphia went 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position and has dropped eight of nine overall.

The Phils actually hit Cole harder than the Pirates hit O’Sullivan, but Pittsburgh took advantage of the few opportunities it was given. The Pirates scored a pair of runs in the first when the Phillies twice unsuccessfully tried to throw out the lead runner on a fielder’s choice. They added two more in the second on a single, a walk and two infield hits by Marte and McCutchen.

Staked to a 4-1 lead, Cole dug in. Franco doubled leading off the fourth and scored on a groundout by Galvis in the fourth but Cole would not allow another baserunner as the Pirates won their third straight and improved to 21-11 since May 9, the best record in the majors.

“We didn’t really just turn it on,” Cole said. “We grinded through awhile of some pretty bad baseball. It wasn’t like it was a one-game turnaround. It speaks to how we go about our business and you know weather the storm.”


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