Cole hopes to get Pirates' playoff train going versus Cubs

Coming off the best start of his young career, rookie Gerrit Cole looks to pitch the Pittsburgh Pirates to another victory on Saturday night in the third contest of a four-game set with the Chicago Cubs.

The 23-year-old Cole is 7-7 with a 3.48 earned run average this year in 16 starts, allowing three earned runs or fewer in all but one of those outings.

He threw the first scoreless start of his career on Monday versus Texas, outdueling Yu Darvish over seven innings in a 1-0 win. Cole scattered three hits and two walks while fanning a career-high nine batters.

"He was fantastic tonight. ... He had swing-and-miss stuff. He also got them early, making quality pitches in quality locations," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

The right-handed Cole will face the Cubs for the first time in his career looking to improve his 4.27 home ERA. The top pick of the 2011 draft has logged a 2.29 ERA on the road.

Looking to spoil Pittsburgh's march towards a playoff spot will be Scott Baker, who makes his second start for the Cubs.

Baker had not made a Major League start since Aug. 8, 2011 nor pitched in a game since Sept. 24 of that year due to Tommy John surgery before facing Milwaukee on Sunday. He did not get a decision in the 3-1 loss but allowed just two hits and one walk over five innings and 55 pitches.

"There were some emotions there. It's been a long road and I was happy my family was here to share this moment because they're just as much a part of this as I am," the right-handed Baker said.

A former Minnesota Twin to begin his career, the 31-year-old Baker faces the Pirates for the first time.

The Cubs rallied for a 5-4 win over the Pirates on Friday, dropping Pittsburgh into second place in the NL Central. The Bucs trail the St. Louis Cardinals, who beat Seattle in extra innings on Friday, by a game for first place, but are still 2 1/2 games up on Cincinnati for the first wild card spot.

The Pirates failed to earn a fifth straight win despite getting three straight home runs in the fourth inning from Pedro Alvarez, Russell Martin and Garrett Jones. Alvarez's 33rd homer of the season was of the inside-the-park variety. Martin followed by sending the first pitch he saw over the left-field wall and Jones tied the game two pitches later.

It was the first time that Pittsburgh had hit three straight homers in one inning since Aug. 20, 2003. The Pirates hadn't done it on the road since July 6, 1955 against the Brooklyn Dodgers.

"Obviously that got us going and whenever something like that happens it's a huge deal," said Alvarez. "We just couldn't turn that energy into a win tonight."

Anthony Rizzo rallied the Cubs with a two-run homer in the seventh inning, his 22nd of the year.

"I think it was huge for him and hopefully it carries him for the next couple of weeks here," said Chicago manager Dale Sveum about Rizzo. "He had some real nice swings tonight so it would be nice to see that confidence build."

Brian Bogusevic was 3-for-4 with a two-run home run for the Cubs, who avoided a third straight loss.

The Cubs have won four of their last six versus the Pirates are losing six of eight to begin the season series.