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Same as it ever was: Pirates lose, 4-1

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Chad Kuhl gave the Pirates a good effort. He couldn’t, however, overcome the burdens of a bottom-feeding offense and a front office that’s more concerned with saving $600,000 than with winning games.

Kuhl’s night could have gone south in the first. A leadoff hit was erased by a double play, but the Cubs still got runners to second and third. Josh Harrison stopped that threat, though, with a great diving stop of a hard grounder toward the middle. After that, Kuhl had surprisingly little trouble through the first five innings. He allowed just two Jason Heyward singles, one of which was wiped out by a caught stealing.

The Pirates’ offense, though, remained AWOL, as it has been most of the season. This was despite Jake Arrieta getting into deep counts repeatedly. They managed only two hits off Arrieta in six innings. They had a few mild threats. Harrison had a one-out double in the first but was stranded. In the second, a single and a hit batsman put two one with one out, but that just brought up the sub-Mendoza-line Chris Stewart and Kuhl, who stranded the runners. Two walks in the fourth just produced a Jordy Mercer double play grounder.

It has to be tough to pitch when your anemic offense leaves you no margin at all for error. Or the team had met management’s expectations by competing for five and a half innings. Whatever, Kuhl ran out of gas in the sixth. Ben Zobrist led off the inning with a HR to center. The Cubs then loaded the bases with one out and Alex Avila chased Kuhl with a single that made it 2-0. Kuhl finished with seven strikeouts. A.J. Schugel followed Kuhl and gave up a sacrifice fly before ending the inning, so Kuhl ended up with a line — three runs in five and a third -- that looked worse than he deserved.

After that, things went their accustomed way. John Jaso averted the shutout with his ninth HR in the seventh, but nothing else of interest happened on offense. Andrew McCutchen went 0-for-4, leaving his August line at a miserable 219/299/281. The Pirates finished 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. Dovydas Neverauskas had a quick seventh inning. White Flag Hudson gave up a run in the eighth to provide the final count of 4-1. He did, however, preserve a save opportunity for Wade Davis, so maybe that counts as a hold.

The Pirates . . . or at least the players, anyway . . . will try to get a win tomorrow to avoid the sweep. Ivan Nova will face Jose Quintana, who hasn’t actually been all that good since the Cubs acquired him.