Grounders and three double plays key Kuhl's start
Assisted by heretofore elusive ground balls, Clad Kuhl put together a strong six-inning start and earned his second major league win. The Pirates are now 5-0 in games he's started.
"He kept the ball down better as the game went on," Clint Hurdle said. "The slider played extremely well for him. He made some good pitches when he needed to, too."
After a rocky first inning that almost got away from him thanks, in part, to a misplayed liner by Andrew McCutchen that led to a run scoring double and two walks, Kuhl navigated safely through next five innings. For the night, the right-hander allowed two runs, five hits and walked four. He struck out four, netted three pivotal double plays and induced seven groundouts.
"I felt like I had decent command, especially the game went on," Kuhl said. "Two-seamer was working and I got more ground balls than I've been getting. So, definitely better tonight."
Polanco cleans up
In his first major league start batting clean-up, Gregory Polanco jolted the Pirates' offense with three-run homer in the fifth. The blast came on an 0-2 fastball that was left up and on the outside edge of the zone. Leveraging his long frame, Polanco reached out and sent a soaring fly ball beyond the right-center field stands. It is the first homer of his career on an 0-2 pitch.
"Whenever you have two strikes, you have to swing at whatever pitch is close to the plate," Polanco said. "He left it right there and I put a good swing on it."
Polanco's home run put the Pirates up 5-2. They scored another run in the inning and held on the rest of the way for a 6-4 win.
Hurdle said that the decision to move Polanco to the fourth spot in the order was due to his success in driving baserunners home this season.
"When you have the highest RBI-percentage on the team this year, that's a guy that can take a look at clean up," Hurdle said. "It all made sense to me."
According to baseballmusings.com, Polanco's driven home 56 of 273 baserunners, good for a team high 15.02 RBI-percentage. Jung Ho Kang ranks second with 14.77 percent. Incidentally, the league leader amongst players with over 100 baserunners is Coco Crisp with a 23.33 success rate.
For his part, Polanco looks forward to firmly planting himself in the four spot.
"I like to hit with men on base." Polanco said. "I like the challenge. I like to hit in the middle of the lineup. Hopefully, I'll stay there for a long time."
Harrison slides out of trouble
Polanco's almost didn't have the chance to bat with two men on after Josh Harrison got caught between first and second on attempted steal earlier in the inning. After losing his footing halfway to second, Harrison tried to turnaround, but slipped, and ended up in a rundown. It appeared that Padres had him dead-to-rights at second, but after instant replay showed that he avoided the tag with a perfectly executed swim slide, Harrison was ruled safe. A batter later Andrew McCutchen walked and both men were aboard for Polanco's blast.
"I tried to pull the best magician's act I could to avoid the tag," Harrison said. "It's just instincts and trying to get away."
Harrison wasn't very animated in signaling for a replay after the initial call. His reaction was so muted that second base umpire Phil Cuzzi commented to him afterwards that he made it look like he was out.
"I knew it was close, but I thought it could be the same thing that happened in Colorado," where Harrison stood on the bag thinking he was safe only to not get the call. "I was like, let me go ahead and go back to the dugout so I don't have a replay of what happened in Colorado. And when they said I was safe, I was like, ‘Thank you.'"