The Pirates had one major piece return to their lineup Tuesday night when Andrew McCutchen came off the disabled list. Their rotation will get a key piece back Wednesday.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole will make his first start for the Pirates in more than a month in Wednesday's finale vs. the Braves at PNC Park. The second-year Major Leaguer last appeared on July 4, when he strained his right lat against the Phillies.
The Pirates activated Cole off the 15-day disabled list (strained right lat) on Wednesday afternoon. Infielder Brent Morel was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis to make room for Cole on the 25-man roster.
It was Cole's second DL stint of the season -- he missed nearly all of June with right shoulder fatigue -- and the Pirates were cautious with his rehab process. Cole made a total of four starts for Triple-A Indianapolis.
He did not allow a run in a combined 18 innings during the first, third and fourth starts. However, he gave up five runs on 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings in his second outing, one the team pushed back so Cole could focus on some aspects of his delivery.
On Monday, Cole said he felt in a good place mechanically, and he was prepared to help the Bucs -- who are on a season-long seven-game losing skid and 2.5 games behind the Giants for the second National League Wild Card spot -- make up some ground in the standings.
"We don't have time for another setback," Cole said. "After this, the season is going to be over in the blink of an eye. It's important to be as disciplined as I can and to keep throwing the ball the right way, so when I come back it's a seamless transition."
Cole, who's 7-4 with a 3.78 ERA, was hit hard in his first start off the DL last time. On June 28 against the Mets, Cole matched a career worst by allowing five earned runs, and he did so in just four innings of work. His next start was the one in which he was hurt, but before exiting, Cole allowed just one hit and three baserunners in five innings.
Braves: Wood has history with Cole
Alex Wood will take the mound for the Braves on Wednesday, facing Cole -- but not for the first time.
The two met on the college diamond in 2011 when Wood outdueled Cole and his Georgia Bulldogs beat Cole's UCLA Bruins, 6-2. Wood struck out 11 batters in seven innings and allowed only one run on four hits.
Wood stayed in the Peach State when the Braves selected him in the second round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, and he comes into the rematch on a roll. The southpaw has a 1.71 ERA in his last four starts and has struck out 26 batters in 26 1/3 innings -- including a season-best 12 on Aug. 10 against the Nationals.
Wood picked up his ninth victory in his last start, giving up two runs in six frames against the Athletics.
Pirates: Alvarez likely finished at hot corner
On Monday, Pedro Alvarez made his debut at first base. On Tuesday, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was asked if the lifelong third baseman is done seeing time at the hot corner.
Hurdle didn't completely rule it out, but made it sound unlikely that Alvarez -- who has 24 throwing errors this season -- would get more time at third base.
"Right now, I think we have a better option in Josh Harrison," Hurdle said. "This season, right now -- to put the best team that I can on the field every night, we have better options. We have to find [Alvarez] some at-bats. Is third base the optimum place to get them? No, it is not."
Ike Davis got the start at first on Tuesday, and Hurdle said he has a method in mind of how to split at-bats between Davis, Alvarez and fellow first baseman Gaby Sanchez.
• Travis Snider extended his hitting streak to 10 games on Tuesday with a double. Snider has eight extra-base hits during the streak.
• The Braves have won five straight games and are 8-4 since an eight-game losing streak. If they beat the Pirates on Wednesday, it will be the Bucs' eighth consecutive loss.
Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.