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Kuhl, longballs stop Pirates’ skid in 6-4 win over Cards

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

After spending many recent games watching opponents circle the bases, the Pirates did some of that themselves today in a rain-delayed game against the Cards. That plus an effective, if not efficient, start by Chad Kuhl gave them a 6-4 win that stopped their losing streak at six.

The game didn’t get off to a promising start, as Kuhl didn’t have especially good command. He survived a walk and a hit batsman in the first, then gave up a double and RBI single to start the second. That’s when the rains came. After a two-hour delay, it was a little surprising to see both starters return, but return they did. The delay didn’t seem to affect Kuhl much, as his command was shaky, before and after but he got three outs despite a couple three-ball counts, one on his mound opponent. He was helped by a nice play by Josh Harrison at third on a tough short hop down the line. Harrison had a diving stop later as well.

Michael Wacha didn’t seem to deal with the delay as well. He’d had an easy first before the rains, but he began the second by walking Josh Bell and falling behind Adam Frazier. On a 3-1 pitch, Frazier deposited his fourth HR in the seats in right-center. Singles by Sean Rodriguez and John Jaso followed, putting runners at the corners. Elias Diaz hit into a run-scoring double play, which effectively seemed to end the inning. Kuhl, however — he of the .175 career OPS — rolled a double past third and Starling Marte blasted his third HR, and first since April 15, to center. That made it 5-1.

The Pirates had chances to extend the lead. Frazier and Marte each finished with three hits, and Rodriguez and Jaso each two, but the team went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position. The only other run came on a pinch-hit HR by Jose Osuna, his sixth longball.

Kuhl meanwhile didn’t exactly pound the strike zone; he threw 50 strikes among his 92 pitches. What he did do, though, was get hitters out. After the second, he allowed just one more runner. That was a leadoff double in the fifth, which combined with a passed ball left a runner on third and no outs. Kuhl got out of that with two strikeouts, his fifth and sixth in the game, and a line out.

Clint Hurdle removed Kuhl after the fifth, which probably wasn’t a bad idea. For the sixth Hurdle went with newly arrived Dovydas Neverauskas . . . you know, the guy who isn’t good enough to be in a bullpen that has Wade LeBlanc, Daniel Hudson and Joaquin Benoit, unless somebody is hurt. Neverauskas had a 1-2-3 inning and George Kontos gave up just a two-out double in the seventh.

The last two innings were more adventurous. Juan Nicasio, who really hasn’t been very good lately, gave up a two-run dinger to Paul DeJong in the eighth. (Maybe it really wouldn’t be a good idea to sign Hudson Nicasio to an extension for the years and money he’s likely to get this off-season.) Even Felipe Rivero wasn’t immune to the gopher ball bug afflicting the Pirates’ pitchers recently, as he served one up to the leadoff batter in the ninth. He got the next three batters, though, with the help of a replay challenge that saved Harrison an error.

Tomorrow night the Pirates will try to salvage a split in a game to be played at Williamsport. And then, the Dodgers.