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MIL@PIT: Cole goes six solid, earns fourth win

Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole has beaten Tim Lincecum, Zack Greinke and Jered Weaver. Next up for the rookie ace slayer? Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels.

Cole and the Pirates face Hamels' Phillies in an Independence Day series finale on Thursday in Pittsburgh.

The Pirates, winners in 11 of their last 13, have continued to be the class of the National League thanks in large part to their pitching. Although some advanced statistics lead some to believe Pittsburgh pitchers might not be able to keep up their current pace, the Pirates continue to produce effective outings.

And while the Pirates aren't striking out as many batters as they did in the season's early going, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle isn't concerned.

"We've got to focus on getting guys out in three pitches or less," Hurdle said. "We were striking out a lot of guys, pitch counts were getting ramped up."

With A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez and James McDonald on the disabled list, others like Brandon Cumpton, Jeanmar Gomez and Cole -- the first Pirates pitcher in 105 years to win each of his first four starts -- have stepped up. McDonald said he isn't surprised by the starting rotation's depth.

"In Spring Training, I remember saying I was impressed with all the guys you've seen," McDonald said. "They all had good arms."

So, too, does Hamels -- even if his record continues to be a poor reflection of his effort. Although the lefty hasn't received much run support this season, his last two starts have been shaky, as he's surrendered leads in each.

"Another poor performance," Hamels said after his last outing, during which he allowed four runs in six innings against the Padres. "It's not the situation you want to be in. It's a continuation of not being able to do what I intend to do."

Phillies: Delmon reaches 1,000
Outfielder Delmon Young went 3-for-5 on Wednesday, notching the 1,000th hit of his career along the way. Of the 86 active players to hit that mark, five are Phillies -- Michael Young, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Young.

• Rollins has a six-game hitting streak (.320).

• Seven of Philadelphia's 15 losses since June 7 have been charged to the bullpen.

Pirates: Happy July
Andrew McCutchen exploded last July, hitting .446/.510/.739 with seven home runs. The Pirates' center fielder is riding a five-game hitting streak and went 3-for-3 with two walks and two runs scored on Wednesday.

• Starling Marte has an eight-game hitting streak, during which he's batting .341 with four doubles, two triples and two homers.

• Outfielder Jose Tabata went 1-for-4 on Wednesday in his return from the disabled list.

• With Wednesday's win, left-hander Jeff Locke became the first Pirates lefty to win eight consecutive starts since John Candelaria also won eight straight in 1983.

Worth noting
• The Phillies are 15-25 at PNC Park since it opened in 2001. A win Thursday would give the Phillies their first series victory in Pittsburgh since April 2008.

• Wednesday's ninth-inning homer by Philadelphia's Domonic Brown was the first the Pirates' pitching staff has allowed at PNC Park since June 13, a streak spanning 81 innings.

• The Pirates are 16-1 in the 17 home contests McCutchen has recorded a multi-hit game. Comments