PITTSBURGH -- Vin Mazzaro was as perfect as perfect gets on Sunday --- 15 up, 15 down in five innings of relief work against the Brewers.
But Thursday, in his first appearance since, he was the opposite. The Phillies singled three times in a row off Mazzaro in the sixth after he inherited two runners from starter Gerrit Cole. They scored four runs in the inning to beat the Pirates, 6-4, at PNC Park.
"Those are the decisions the manager makes when you go to your bullpen," Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle said. "If it doesn't work, the decision wasn't the right one. If you leave the starter out there and he gives up the runs, it wasn't the right one."
The Phillies got going in the sixth when Ryan Howard walked on a full count, although three of the four balls were in the strike zone, according to MLB.com's Pitch Tracker. Cole, the Pirates' top prospect, who won his first four big league decisions, was pulled after Domonic Brown singled. Cole whipped his glove against the wall in the dugout, perhaps a reaction to the free pass he issued to Howard.
"They could go either way. I don't know if they were balls or strikes," Cole said. "They were quality pitches. That's all you can worry about is just trying to make your pitch."
Cole, who threw just 78 pitches, gave way to Mazzaro with one out and two on, and the Pirates righty allowed a line-drive single to left by Delmon Young and a bloop single to right by Kevin Frandsen to score Howard. Carlos Ruiz then drove in a pair with a hard single, and Mazzaro was pulled after hitting Phillies starter Cole Hamels with a pitch. He didn't record an out, but Tony Watson was able to end the inning and pitch a scoreless seventh.
Hamels picked up just his third win of the season in 18 tries, scattering five hits and two runs (one earned) over seven innings. He didn't issue a walk and struck out eight, but the victory couldn't come without a scare. That's just the way his year has gone.
Jordy Mercer and Starling Marte singled off Justin De Fratus to start the eighth. Garrett Jones, pinch-hitting for Jose Tabata, drove in Marte with a base hit to center. But Andrew McCutchen grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to thwart the rally, despite plating another run.
Pirates righty Ryan Reid allowed a run on a sac fly in the eighth, and a leadoff triple in the ninth. Jonathan Papelbon converted his second save opportunity of the series.
Cole wasn't great, but had he retired Howard in the sixth, his day may have ended differently. He allowed eight hits and three runs with five strikeouts and one walk in 5 1/3 innings, losing his first Major League game after becoming the first Pirates pitcher to win four straight decisions to start his career since Nick Maddox in 1907. Mazzaro was charged with two runs and three hits.
"If you just keep going, put your head down, sometimes things turn out in your favor," Cole said of his ability to work out of jams. "I gave it all I had. I tried to give it all I could. I put myself in a position to keep going. I've got to get ahead of guys going, hitting the spots over the plate."
The Pirates scored first when Marte singled to right with two outs in the third. Tabata's ground ball in the hole was stopped by Jimmy Rollins, but his throw to second got past Chase Utley, and both runners advanced. McCutchen extended his bat on a changeup that painted the outer edge of the plate, slapping it up the middle to score both runners and put the Pirates up, 2-0.
After that single, Hamels retired 10 straight batters.
"[This season], I would get guys right where I want them, and then I'm not able to finish them off," Hamels said. "[I was] able to get guys out early and moving the ball around keeping them off balance."
The Phillies cut the Pirates' lead in half in the fifth when Ben Revere, who went 3-for-5, singled in Ruiz after Hamels moved him over with a sac bunt.
The Pirates lost their first series since June 3-5, when they were swept by the Braves in Atlanta. The Bucs did take the season series against Philadelphia, 4-3.
"This ballpark owes me some wins," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "It beat me up when I was in Cleveland. It hasn't been good to me."
Steven Petrella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.