PITTSBURGH -- This is new for Gerrit Cole. There have been moments and sequences over his last four starts where everything felt right, but they have come without consistency. He has struggled before, but not quite like this.
Cole battled through another frustrating start Thursday night at PNC Park, allowing seven runs on 11 hits over 4 2/3 innings in the Pirates' 7-1 loss to the Marlins. In his past four trips to the mound, Cole has allowed 39 hits in 19 1/3 innings. His ERA during that stretch is 10.71, bringing his overall mark up to 4.83.
"I haven't really gone through something like this before," Cole said. "That's certainly the furthest thing from an excuse. I've got to turn it around."
For the better part of two months, the Pirates could count on Cole. Three weeks ago, the right-hander had a 2.84 ERA after a string of eight straight quality starts. Since then, he has been victimized by hard contact, home runs -- eight in his previous three starts -- and shallow singles.
Cole can see the problem: He's not repeating his delivery often enough, leading to the lack of consistent quality in his pitches. At times, there is depth and downhill angle. But too often, hitters are capitalizing on poorly executed pitches that are either flat or up and over the plate.
Three batters into the game, the Marlins took a 1-0 lead on Christian Yelich's RBI double to right. Cole nearly escaped with no further damage, striking out the next two hitters. Then Derek Dietrich slammed what Cole described as a "poor" changeup to right for a two-run double.
"He just about gets out of that thing with one. He has that kind of stuff," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "The guys kind of hung in there."
In the fifth inning, Cole recorded two quick groundouts before the Marlins racked up three runs on five straight singles. None of them traveled more than 235 feet or came off the bat harder than 90 mph, according to Statcast™. They were all lined just over the infield. Those pitches frustrated Cole.
"There were a lot of base hits that were not necessarily scorched as compared to earlier in the game, yet I failed to get them on the ground," Cole said. "There's a delivery component there where the ball's not creating angle. … The lack of depth is showing up on everything.
"Quality pitches have shown up, just not at the level of consistency that it needs to be. Just try to find that repeatability better, try to find that feel where the fingers are on top of the ball and it's creating plane and it's easy for you rather than having to fight and try to manipulate things."
After Miami's fifth consecutive hit, an RBI single by J.T. Riddle, manager Clint Hurdle emerged from the dugout and removed Cole.
"There were some signs of some good things," Hurdle said. "Then the lack of consistent execution caught up to him."
Cole said he feels fine physically, so this is not like last year, when a series of injuries derailed his season from the start. He does not need a major adjustment, he said. But he needs an answer, and he's confident he'll find it.
"A lot of these dips that you go through in the season, it's about persisting through the process and trusting it," Cole said. "There's hard work to be done, which I'll do. I'll continue to do it. Things are still moving forward. Things are still looking up. Just got some stuff to take care of."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.