Cole carries Pirates past Nationals

Standing on first base in the second inning, Gerrit Cole used his right hand to fist bump his first base coach and exchanged a few words behind his black batting glove if only to break up long, emotionless stares with the dirt surrounding the bag.

Cole saved his best work, and excitement, for the mound, where he shut down the Washington Nationals and led the Pirates to a 5-1 win in the second of a four-game series.

The 22-year-old rookie gave up one run on two hits in seven innings to snap a three-start losing streak. Cole (5-3) struck out four and walked one in addition to two hits and an RBI at the plate.

Pedro Alvarez slammed his 25th home run for the Pirates, who have won three in a row and remain 1 1/2 games behind NL Central-leading St. Louis.

"We don't live and die by it, we go out there to win every game," Cole said of the standings. "I think we're really good about it, but we watch the scoreboard to see if we can pick up a game here or there."

Taylor Jordan (0-3) took the loss after giving up five runs -- four earned -- on nine hits and a walk over 7 2/3 innings.

"I really wanted to win today because we needed it," Jordan said. "I'd love to celebrate one time."

Wilson Ramos' home run was the only run for Washington, which has lost five in a row.

The Pirates put up three runs to take the lead in the second. Alvarez and Russell Martin singled before Garrett Jones worked a walk to load the bases with no outs. Neil Walker grounded into a fielder's choice to score the game's first run.

Jordy Mercer followed with a hard chopper that Ryan Zimmerman picked at third base. Zimmerman threw to second to start a double play, but second baseman Anthony Rendon dropped the throw, allowing Martin to score and failing to record an out.

Cole showed bunt, but pulled back and grounded a base hit into left field to score Walker and cap the three-run rally.

Ramos lifted his fifth home run to center field in the third inning, just out of the reach of a leaping Andrew McCutchen.

Cole made the lead stand, however. When Mercer made a diving stop that led to the second out of the seventh inning, Cole didn't hide his excitement. With a glove slap and a smile peering through his thick brown beard, Cole's reaction punctuated his outing.

Alvarez gave the Pirates' bullpen some extra run support when he lined a solo home run to left field in the eighth. Martin followed with a single, stole second and scored on Gaby Sanchez's pinch-hit double to push the score to 5-1.

Bryan Morris tossed a scoreless eighth before Mark Melancon took over in the ninth. Melancon, who is taking over the closer role with All-Star closer Jason Grilli on the disabled list with a strained right forearm, tossed a perfect ninth.

Game Notes

Prior to the game, the Pirates activated Walker from the 15-day disabled list and recalled pitcher Vic Black. The club also placed Grilli on the 15-day disabled list and designated infielder Brandon Inge for assignment ... Pittsburgh has won 10 of its last 14 on the road ... The Nationals are 6-8 against rookie starting pitchers this season ... Washington is 2-10 in its last 12 games.