Five Pirates pitchers combined to shut out the Phillies on three hits and the Bucs managed to push one across on Aaron Nola for a 1-0 victory at PNC Park on a rainy Sunday and a series win over Philadelphia. The Pirates have won six of their last eight.
Chad Kuhl broke out of a bad run with a solid start, holding the Phils to one hit, with five strikeouts, one walk and a 7:1 groundball ratio in five innings. Wade LeBlanc went 1 1-3 innings strong, followed by Juan Nicasio and Felipe Rivero, and Tony Watson pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for a save for the second straight day. The pitchers combined for nine strikeouts and two walks.
Kuhl’s day was shortened because the Pirates hadn’t scraped a lot together against Nola. John Jaso walked to open the bottom of the fifth, and moved to third on a pair of groundouts. With Kuhl’s spot up and the starter at 82 pitches, Clint Hurdle sent up Jose Osuna to try and capitalize on the opening, but Osuna flied to center.
The Pirates had Nola on the ropes in the sixth. Adam Frazier and Josh Harrison opened the inning with singles. Andrew McCutchen rolled one over to third, though. With first base open the Phillies intentionally walked Josh Bell to load the bases. Nola’s second pitch to Freese, a 90 MPH fastball, ran in and nailed Freese on his upper arm to send Frazier home. With the bases still loaded Jaso bounced into a 4-6-3 double play on the first pitch to end the inning. It seemed a missed opportunity at the time, but one run turned out to be all the Pirates needed.
Nola, who came off the disabled list to start Sunday, got his share of grounders, struck out five, walked two and gave up just four hits in seven innings.
In the seventh Hurdle made his indefensible, unpopular, no-good double switch to get Bell out of the game, opting to go the final two-plus innings of a 1-0 game without one of his best hitters. The bullpen held strong, though. With two outs in the eighth Felipe Rivero threw a Cesar Hernandez tapper away, then Freddy Galvis singled. In a showdown with the emerging Aaron Altherr, Rivero went with a string of 95-98 MPH fastballs, fanning Philadelphia’s best hitter to get out of the jam.
Frazier finished 2-for-3 with a walk, following a three-hit performance Saturday. He’s hitting .358/.402/.871 in 87 plate appearances. I don’t suspect I’ll need bang the drum too loudly for his case to play every day, or close to that, but I’m prepared to fight that fight if I need to. The dude can hit.
The Pirates head to Atlanta for four games this week.