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Pirates can’t capitalize on Chad Kuhl’s gem

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MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

After a disappointing series sweep at the hands of the Reds, Pittsburgh seemed poised to grind out a win against Boston, but ultimately fell short, collapsing in the eighth inning to lose 4-3.

Jordy Mercer, hitting leadoff with a southpaw on the mound, kicked things off for Pittsburgh with a seven-pitch walk. Following a Starling Marte strikeout in the subsequent at bat, Andrew McCutchen drove a 93-MPH fastball over the Green Monster to give the Bucs an early lead. Next, Gregory Polanco and David Freese tried to keep it going with each ripping a single, but two consecutive strikeouts brought the promising inning to a close.

While the Red Sox’ pitcher, Eduardo Rodriguez, was able to keep the offense at bay for a few more innings, he was anything but efficient, requiring a whopping 105 pitches to make it through the fifth inning. In the top of the sixth, Polanco and Freese were up to things again with the former driving a hanging breaking ball to deep right field. In fact, if Polanco had hit that ball in just about any other ballpark, he would have homered easily. Freese drew a walk in the next at bat, forcing John Farrell to replace Rodriguez with Heath Hembree. Josh Harrison, who looked over-matched offensively for most of the night, chased a high fastball for strike three, but the play gave Polanco a chance to steal third base. In a stroke of good luck, an errant throw to third gave Polanco the opportunity to get home, pushing the Pirates lead back to two.

Meanwhile, Chad Kuhl looked downright dominant on the mound, throwing six innings of one-run ball to effectively put his wild season debut behind him. Throughout the afternoon, he was rarely in trouble as he hammered the zone and mixed in a quality slider, striking out a total of six Boston batters while walking none. His lone blemish on the day came in the second inning on a double by Marco Hernandez that ricocheted off the left field wall to bring Mitch Moreland home.

In large part to Kuhl’s performance, it looked like the Pirates had things locked down until it all began to unravel in the bottom of the eighth. Hudson walked Dustin Pedroia following a leadoff groundout and then gave up a single to Andrew Benintendi before getting pulled for Juan Nicasio.

Unfortunately, Nicasio was unable to halt the Red Sox’ momentum as he walked Mookie Betts just before allowing a Hanley Ramirez double to deep center field. Marte had a chance to make a play on the ball, but when he missed it by a hand, the two lead runners managed to score. Betts also attempted to advance on the play but was thrown out at home, leaving the Bucs and Sox tied with a runner on second; however, the damage continued with a single to left by the next batter, Xander Bogaerts, driving in Ramirez to give the Red Sox a 4-3 lead.

Clint Hurdle called on Adam Frazier in the top of the ninth to try and mount a comeback, but despite getting on first with a hit, Frazier was caught stealing second two at bats later, presumably in an attempt to avoid a potential Mercer double play . On the next pitch, Mercer hit a weak grounder to second base, bringing the game to a close and marring one of the finest games in Kuhl’s young career.

The Pirates, now three and six, will travel to Chicago for a three game series with the Cubs.