Anaheim, CA – Gerrit Cole felt right at home in his first major league road start.
The highly-touted rookie pitcher took a shutout into the seventh inning and was backed by a pair of home runs that helped the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the opener of a three-game interleague series.
Cole (3-0), a native of nearby Newport Beach, CA and a former standout at UCLA, was touched for a pair of runs before exiting with one out in the seventh, but the 2011 No. 1 overall pick limited a strong Angels' lineup to four hits to win his third straight start to begin his big league career.
The young righty bested a pair of former Cy Young winners in Tim Lincecum and Zack Greinke in his initial two outings, then outpitched Jered Weaver -- who finished third for the honor in the AL last season -- on Friday.
"I've been fortunate," said Cole afterward. "The guys have played good defense behind he, and that picks me up."
Jordy Mercer paced Pittsburgh's offense by going 3-for-4 with a two-run homer, with Pedro Alvarez adding a solo blast as part of a 2-for-3 night. Andrew McCutchen also collected two hits, including an RBI double.
Albert Pujols spoiled Cole's shutout bid with a solo homer, while Alberto Callaspo had an RBI single for Anaheim, which had won six of eight coming in.
Weaver (1-4) was dealt his first interleague loss since 2009 and dropped his third straight start overall after surrendering four runs on nine hits through six innings.
"At times he showed command, but things got away from him later on," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Weaver. "He was missing up. His command wasn't as crisp as we've seen it."
Cole stifled an Anaheim offense that entered the matchup having piled up 49 runs while batting .348 during its 6-2 stretch for much of the night. The hard-throwing 22-year-old set down 18-of-20 hitters over the first six innings, with Hank Conger and Peter Bourjos the only Angels to reach base via consecutive singles in the bottom of the third.
"I just tried to compete," said Cole. "[Catcher] Russell [Martin] wanted to mix up some pitches and I went with him. It's a one-way relationship. He puts down the fingers and I throw it."
He was staked to an early lead when Alvarez, fresh off a 3-for-4, five-RBI performance Thursday in Cincinnati, launched Weaver's full-count offering over the scoreboard in right to lead off the second. Later in the frame, Mercer followed a Travis Snider single with a shot into the Pittsburgh bullpen to put the Bucs up by a 3-0 count.
Pittsburgh struck again in the fourth on Starling Marte's two-out triple, a deep fly to center that Bourjos lost in the lights as Neil Walker, hit by a Weaver pitch to begin the inning, came all the way around from the first.
The Angels finally got to Cole when Pujols belted a fastball into the backdrop of rocks behind the center-field wall to start the bottom of the seventh. Cole then walked Mark Trumbo, who moved to second on a groundout in front of Callaspo's single up the middle that pulled the Halos within 4-2.
They would get no closer, however, as McCutchen drove in Mercer with a double in the top of the ninth and Jason Grilli struck out two while retiring the side in order in the bottom of the inning to nail down his 26th save.
Weaver, who last lost three consecutive starts in May of 2011, had been 8-0 with a 1.91 ERA over his last 13 interleague assignments since falling to the Dodgers on June 20, 2009 ... The Angels placed pitcher Jason Vargas on the 15- day disabled list before the game after a blood clot was discovered in his left armpit. Right-hander Billy Buckner was promoted from Salt Lake to take his spot and tossed 2 2/3 innings of one-run ball in relief ... Alvarez now has 17 homers on the season, seven of which have come in June ... The Pirates had been 1-5 all-time at Angel Stadium, with the lone previous win coming on June 11, 2002.