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Cole hopes to get Bucs off schneid against Atlanta

(SportsNetwork.com) - The return of Andrew McCutchen to the lineup wasn't enough to help Pittsburgh snap its longest losing streak of the season.

Perhaps Gerrit Cole can get the Pirates on track Wednesday night as he comes back from injury to start the finale of a three-game set with the Atlanta Braves.

Cole has not started in the majors since July 4 because of a lat injury, but returns after four outings at Triple-A. He is 7-4 with a 3.78 earned run average on the year and will step in for Charlie Morton, who is on the disabled list with a hip ailment.

Cole, a 23-year-old righty, will be facing the Braves for the first time looking to provide a spark to a Pirates team that has lost seven in a row. That includes getting routed 11-3 by the Braves last night as Francisco Liriano was lit up for nine runs -- seven earned -- over just four-plus innings.

McCutchen went 0-for-4 in his return from missing two weeks with a fractured rib, and all the Pirates managed offensively was an RBI groundout by Neil Walker in the fourth inning and run-scoring singles from Brandon Cumpton and Ike Davis in the sixth and ninth, respectively.

"We haven't played a complete game," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said of the losing streak.

It has been the opposite for the Braves, who picked up their fifth victory in a row thanks in part to Justin Upton's home run and five RBI.

Jason Heyward added two hits and three RBI and Evan Gattis hit a solo homer for the Braves, who have scored 33 runs during their winning streak but still trail Washington by six games for first place in the NL East.

Atlanta is tied with San Francisco for the league's second wild card spot, with Pittsburgh sitting two games back of that playoff berth.

Aaron Harang tossed 8 1/3 innings and limited Pittsburgh to three runs on nine hits to pick up his first victory since July 10.

"He navigates through lineups and he doesn't give you anything good to hit over the middle of the plate," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Harang.

Hoping to duplicate that success is Alex Wood, who has been charged with two earned runs or fewer in five of his last six starts.

Wood won his second straight start for the Braves on Friday versus Oakland, giving up two runs over six innings of a 7-2 win. That improved the 23-year- old lefty to 9-9 with a 3.07 ERA on the year.

He is making his first start versus the Pirates, having faced them once before in relief.

Atlanta lost three of four in Pittsburgh last season, but then later swept a three-game set at home over the Pirates.

08/20 09:50:53 ET

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