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Pirates compete their way to merely losing series to last-place Reds

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Chad Kuhl threw seven shutout innings, and Starling Marte and David Freese each had three hits as the Pirates salvaged a single win in their series with the fearsome last-place Reds. The final was 6-0.

The Pirates served notice early that they were going to continue their recent pattern of showing up for every third game. Marte and Adam Frazier both singled in the bottom of the first. When Adam Duvall air-mailed a throw to third, trying to catch Marte, the Pirates ended up with a run in and Frazier on third. A grounder by Andrew McCutchen got that run in. Marte got things going again in the third with a leadoff double. Consecutive singles by McCutchen, Josh Bell and Freese brought in another pair of runs. The Bucs got their third pair of runs in the seventh as John Jaso blooped a pinch single to start the rally and stop his staggering 0-for-34 streak. Marte, Frazier and Freese followed with singles, with a sac fly by Bell mixed in.

Kuhl meanwhile was outstanding, getting his fastball up to 98-99 mph at times and using his slider and change liberally. His only real trouble came in the fourth, when a walk and single put the first two batters on. Kuhl got the next three hitters, though, two on strikeouts and one on a well hit flyball. Only one other runner reached scoring position. Kuhl finished with just four hits and two walks allowed, and he fanned six. He even kept Pirate nemesis Ty Cobb Billy Hamilton off base, getting him three times, twice on strikes. (Maybe Kuhl can convince the rest of the staff that, if you don’t walk Hamilton, you at least have a <100% chance of putting him on. Pretty sure there’s a chapter on that in a stats book somewhere.)

The Pirates went with A.J. Schugel and Dovydas Neverauskas for the last two innings. Those two apparently were too inexperienced to realize they were facing the Reds and so didn’t allow any runs. Neverauskas pumped in 96-98 mph fastballs to complete an eight-pitch inning, but fortunately Wade LeBlanc should be back soon to rescue the team from such rookie foolishness.

So the Pirates managed to finish with an embarrassing 2-1 series loss instead of a humiliating sweep at home at the hands of the Reds. That’s their third straight such series against three of MLB’s weakest teams. Apparently, that’s what it means to “compete.”