WASHINGTON -- Gerrit Cole returned from the disabled list Saturday night after breezing through a pair of minor league rehab starts.
The Washington Nationals provided a tougher test.
Cole lasted just four innings in his return for Pittsburgh, Tanner Roark pitched eight-plus innings of five-hit ball, and the Nationals beat the Pirates 6-0.
Recovering from a right triceps strain, Cole (5-5) pitched eight scoreless innings in his Triple-A appearances, rarely working with men on base. Against Washington, he allowed seven hits and walked two.
"I just didn't execute enough pitches. If I made one quality pitch I followed it up with a subpar [one]," he said. "The ball was elevated, especially out of the stretch. I got crushed."
The 2015 All-Star allowed five runs -- four earned -- with five strikeouts.
"You can go pitch in the minor leagues forever and that's not always going to help," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He needs to get back here and help us and get involved in the fight with us. I saw some good things."
Cole's first major league appearance since June 10 was delayed 71 minutes by rain. Washington wasted little time scoring with single runs in the first and second innings plus three in the fourth, aided by second baseman Josh Harrison's throwing error, for a 5-0 lead.
The Pirates have lost three in a row after a 9-1 stretch.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.