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Pirates flail their way to another key loss to Miami

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a damaging loss to one of their two main competitors for the second wild card spot, the Pirates put in a lackluster performance and lost again, 3-1.  They got a solid start from Chad Kuhl, but committed another in what seems like a constant stream of costly errors and whiffed 14 times against converted reliever David Phelps and three other pitchers.

The Marlins got on the board in the third inning with an unearned run.  After a leadoff single, Gregory Polanco seemingly threw Phelps out at first on a liner to right, but the out call was overturned via replay.  Andrew McCutchen then dropped a routine fly, putting the Marlins ahead, 1-0.  Kuhl got out of that inning with a force out and a double play, but in the fourth, following a two-out Ichiro Suzuki double, Kuhl served up 28-yer-old rookie Xavier Scruggs' first major league HR.  Kuhl's pitch actually wasn't terrible; it was a low fastball that Scruggs just went down and got.  Kuhl threw two innings after that without incident, finishing with a solid outing:  six innings, 75 pitches, five hits, and no walks or strikeouts.

The Pirates meanwhile were utterly helpless against Phelps.  A leadoff single by Josh Harrison was wiped out when Starling Marte hit into a double play.  That was the last baserunner until John Jaso and Francisco Cervelli drew two-out walks in the fifth, but Jordy Mercer flied out to end the inning.  Harrison doubled with one out in the sixth, but Marte and McCutchen stranded him.  Phelps departed for a pinch hitter after six, during which he struck out nine.  He blew away the heart of the Pirates' order, holding Marte, McCutchen, Polanco and David Freese to 0-for-10 with five whiffs.  For the game, those four went 0-for-16 with nine whiffs, Freese fanning four times.

The Pirates finally got on the board against the Marlins' bullpen in the eighth.  Harrison singled for his third hit, driving in Mercer, who'd doubled.  Meanwhile, Jeff Locke and Jared Hughes contributed three shutout innings.  It made no difference, though, as the Pirates went down quickly in the ninth.

The Pirates are now assured of losing their crucial series against the Marlins, despite not having to face Miami's best hitter and best pitcher.  They now trail Miami by half a game.  The team's strong play on the west coast is suddenly a distant memory, as is McCutchen's seeming turnaround; he's 0-for-9 in the series.  Ryan Vogelsong will try to avoid the sweep tomorrow.