In a team game where individual statistics are so prevalent, Gerrit Cole knows where his loyalties lie.
The first-rounder is aware he has a responsibility to take his lumps for the team every now and then and he doesn't want to shirk that duty.
Cole allowed a run on four hits and four walks while striking out five batters over 6 1/3 innings in the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians' 4-2 win over the host Toledo Mud Hens on Tuesday.
MLB.com's No. 9 prospect had a one-hit shutout through six frames, but he came back out for the seventh despite already being at a season-high 86 pitches. Even if manager Dean Treanor hadn't given him the green light, Cole said he wanted to be back out there.
"One hundred percent, going out into the seventh," said Cole, when asked whether he'd rather call it a day after six shutout innings or return to the mound -- maybe a little tired -- and run the risk of giving up some runs.
"Every time you go out there, you have to try and keep your bullpen fresh. Any time you can eat up another inning, you'll be rewarded."
Cole struggled with his command early, walking two batters in the second and another pair in the third.
The Mud Hens chased the 240-pound right-hander with three consecutive hits. Danny Dorn reached on a one-out bunt single down the third-base line and Danny Worth followed with a double to put runners on second and third. Bryan Holoday then took Cole's 2-0 offering back up the middle.
Erik Cordier replaced Cole, and he induced an inning 4-6-3 double play to preserve the lead.
"We were playing the shift on Dorn and he dragged it, so you just have to take those as they come," Cole said. "Then the following guy I busted him inside and pulled his hands in and it squirmed down the line. Cordier really picked me up."
In his first start of the year April 5, Cole allowed three runs on five hits over four innings. Last Wednesday, Cole yielded a run on four hits and two walks while striking out five batters over two innings, but he did not return after a rain delay.
"Tonight was definitely an improvement over the last two, but there are still things to work on and grind out," said Cole, selected by the Pirates first overall in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
"I think I can get ahead more and finish guys off better. There were a couple situations where I just didn't get the efficient out I wanted to. But I was able to locate my fastball and establish both sides of the plate and be aggressive early."
The UCLA product, who threw 61 of 95 pitches for strikes, now has a 3.65 ERA.
Across three levels last year, Cole went 9-7 with a 2.80 ERA in 26 starts. He struck out three times as many batters (136) as he walked (45), and he held hitters to a combined .230 average.
On Tuesday, catcher Tony Sanchez went 2-for-4 with a three-run homer and leadoff hitter Josh Harrison collected two hits and reached base three times.
Toledo starter Casey Crosby (0-3) took the loss, yielding three runs on four runs and four hits while striking out three batters over 5 2/3 innings.