PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates got a walk-off sacrifice fly from Gaby Sanchez Wednesday night to snap a seven game losing streak with a 3-2 win on the night their young ace returned to the mound.
Gerrit Cole was a sight for sore eyes in his return from a lengthy rehab assignment, inspiring the Pirates to snap a seven game losing streak with a late comeback.
The Atlanta Braves plated runs in the first and sixth, but the Pirates tied it all up on an RBI groundout and wild pitch in the eighth after chasing lefty Alex Wood to avoid spoiling Cole's return to the mound.
Jordy Mercer singled to open the ninth inning and advanced to third as Starling Marte reached second on an error by left fielder Justin Upton.
Then Sanchez drove a fly ball deep to center to score Mercer for the winning run.
The Pirates managed just three hits off Wood through seven innings, who may have stayed in the game one batter too long.
Wood walked Sanchez to open the eighth then allowed a blazing ground-rule double down the line to Travis Snider.
That put two in scoring position for the Pirates and chased Wood for Jordan Walden.
Chris Stewart hit an RBI groundout to score Sanchez and then with Neil Walker off the bench pinch-hitting for Jayson Nix, Snider scored on a wild pitch.
Cole's start was very encouraging for the Pirates.
He completed seven innings, threw 97 pitches, and his velocity was steady. He gave up just two earned runs on five hits, four walks (one intentional) and struck out six.
Cole was making his first start at PNC Park since July 4, after returning from a lengthy rehab assignment for a sore right lat.
He allowed a costly walk to his first batter who later scored on an RBI single, but hit a groove after that, retiring 12 straight until a leadoff double by Jason Heyward would also eventually cost him.
He left the game trailing 2-0 after seven innings, before the Pirates rallied back.
Cole walked his first batter in five pitches, but struck out his second in three.
Still, the Braves, as they have each game this series, scored first.
Justin Upton drove an RBI single up the middle with two men on, scoring Heyward to make it 1-0 before Cole induced a double play from Chris Johnson to end the inning.
Josh Harrison smacked a first-pitch leadoff double in the bottom of the inning to get things started for the Pirates, but was picked off at second base by Wood.
Harrison was initially called safe, but considering the way things had been going for the Pirates, it was no surprise when the Braves challenged the call and were rewarded.
After one minute, 39 seconds the call was overturned, and the Pirates went down in order in the first.
Cole gave up a leadoff double to catcher Evan Gattis in the second, but fell into a groove after that and retired the next 12 batters.
Heyward doubled to open the sixth inning, then scored when Chris Johnson hit an RBI single to right field with the bases loaded.
Freedie Freeman also attempted to score on the play, but was thrown out at home by Travis Snider.
The Braves challenged that play too, but lost. It took just 34 seconds to confirm the call on the field.
The Pirates have an off day Thursday, then head to Milwaukee to face the National League Central leading Brewers.
The Pirates are just 1-5 at Miller Park this season, and were swept there in April.
It's the start of a potentially season-defining stretch for the Pirates who will exclusively face NL Central opponents starting Friday, and lasting for a string of 15 games through Sept. 7.
The Pirates were within striking distance of the division lead a week ago, but have fallen sharply during the lengthy losing streak. The club still remains in contention, for the wild card in particular.
Asked prior to the game if that was still a driving factor, manager Clint Hurdle said they're still gunning for the division.
"I don't know what every guy or coach is thinking or looking at. I know this, you win your division, you get in," said Hurdle. "That's where I'm going to stay until that's not in play anymore. Then we'll move onto Plan B. And Plan B's complicated."
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