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Rookie pitcher Cole, Pirates take care of Nats

| Tuesday, July 23, 2013, 10:06 p.m.
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The Pirates' Gerrit Cole pitches in the first inning against the Nationals on Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in Washington.
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen leaps for a ball hit for a home run by the Nationals' Wilson Ramos during the third inning Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in Washington.
The Pirates' Russell Martin (55) steals second as the ball gets by Nationals second baseman Anthony Rendon (6) during the eighth inning Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in Washington.
Pirates left fielder Starling Marte catches a fly ball at the wall hit by the Nationals' Adam LaRoche during the second inning Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in Washington.
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The Nationals' Ian Desmond (20) jumps over the Pirates' Garrett Jones after forcing him out at second base in the second inning Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in Washington.
The Pirates' Pedro Alvarez (24) rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the Nationals during the eighth inning Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in Washington.
Pirates second baseman Neil Walker (left) tags out the Nationals' Bryce Harper as Harper tried to steal second base during the first inning Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in Washington.
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The Nationals' Bryce Harper (34) tagged out trying to steal second base in the first inning by the Pirates' Neil Walker on Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in Washington.
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The Pirates' Pedro Alvarez hits a home run in the eighth inning against the Nationals on Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in Washington.
The Pirates' Pedro Alvarez (right) is greeted at the dugout by manager Clint Hurdle after hitting a home run against the Nationals during the eighth inning Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in Washington.
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The Pirates' Starling Marte (8), Andrew McCutchen (22) and Travis Snider celebrate after a 5-1 victory against the Nationals on Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in Washington.
Pirates relief pitcher Mark Melancon (35) celebrates a 5-1 win over the Nationals with catcher Russell Martin (55) on Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in Washington.
The Pirates' Andrew McCutchen (22) and Neil Walker (18) celebrate their 5-1 win over the Nationals along with Jordy Mercer (10) and Pedro Alvarez (24) on Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in Washington.
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The Nationals' Taylor Jordan reacts after giving up a home run in the eighth inning to the Pirates' Pedro Alvarez on Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in Washington.
The Nationals' Bryce Harper looks back after he grounded out to end the eighth inning against the Pirates on Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in Washington.
The Pirates' Russell Martin (right) gets a fist bump from Starling Marte after he scored during the second inning against the Nationals on Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in Washington.
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The Pirates' Russell Martin steals second base in the eighth inning as the throw gets away from the Nationals' Anthony Rendon on Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in Washington.
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The Pirates' Jose Tabata is called out after kicking a bunted ball in the eighth inning against the Nationals on Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in Washington.
The Pirates' Russell Martin (55) steals second as the ball gets by Nationals second baseman Anthony Rendon (6) during the eighth inning Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in Washington.
Pirates starter Gerrit Cole delivers a pitch against the Nationals during the third inning Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in Washington.

WASHINGTON — Some of Gerrit Cole's luster had faded in recent weeks as the Pirates rookie pitcher lost three straight starts.

Cole was brilliant once again Tuesday, dominating the Washington Nationals in a 5-1 victory.

Cole (5-3) worked seven innings and gave up one run on two hits. He retired 15 of his final 16 batters. Overall, he sat down 10 batters on three or fewer pitches.

“The conviction with the pitches was good. The command was very solid,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He was getting after people. That's what I liked.”

Cole's previous outing, the final game before the All-Star break, was bumpy. He gave up three runs in five innings against the Mets and later admitted he hadn't properly prepared.

“I've taken a lot from every game,” Cole said. “It's easy to learn when you have the damage right in front of you. I wanted to carry my previous seven starts into this one and just keep going and keep making adjustments.”

Over his first seven starts, Cole had struggled at times in the first inning. He went into the game with a 7.71 ERA and .969 opponent OPS in the opening frame.

Bryce Harper singled on Cole's second pitch, but the right-hander was unfazed.

“Anytime you keep that guy in the park, you're doing all right,” Cole said.

Harper was caught stealing, Anthony Rendon struck out and Ryan Zimmerman grounded out.

The Pirates took a 3-0 lead in the second against right-hander Taylor Jordan (0-3). If the Nationals had played tighter defense, however, the Pirates would've gotten only one or two runs.

Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin singled. Garrett Jones wasn't tempted by Taylor's sinkers and drew a five-pitch walk, loading the bases with none out.

Neil Walker, fresh off the disabled list, hit a grounder to second base to score Alvarez. Jones' hard slide at second broke up a possible double play.

Jordy Mercer followed with a grounder to third base, scoring Martin. Second baseman Rendon dropped the throw, and everyone was safe on the error.

With two strikes, Cole pulled the bat back and slapped a single into shallow left field. Walker scored from second for a 3-0 lead.

Cole made contact in all three of his at-bats and singled in the seventh inning. Cole is batting .357 (5 for 14) with two RBI and two strikeouts.

In the bottom of the third, Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos ran into a 92 mph four-seamer and drove it to center field. Andrew McCutchen jumped high enough to make the catch above the outfield wall, but the ball whizzed past his glove by inches.

It took a few moments for Ramos, who looked over his shoulder as he slowly rounded second base, and the crowd of 32,976 to realize it was a home run.

“Not that it needed to get Gerrit's attention, but that home run got his attention,” Hurdle said.

Cole did not allow another hit. In the fourth, he froze Zimmerman with a sinker for a called third strike. Adam LaRoche took a pair of sliders for strikes, then whiffed on a 98 mph fastball.

In the eighth, Alvarez hit his 25th homer, an opposite-field shot. Martin singled, stole second and went to third on Ramos' throwing error. Gaby Sanchez lined a pinch-hit, RBI double. Bryan Morris and Mark Melancon pitched the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, for the Pirates.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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