Chad Kuhl continued his run of good starts, and the Pirates backed him with an opportunistic offense and efficient bullpen for a 6-3 win over the Tigers on Tuesday night at PNC Park.
The start was Kuhl’s second straight high-quality outing, and he’s steadily been on the upswing in the season’s second half. The win was the Pirates’ third in a row and their fifth in six games — a run started by Kuhl’s previous outing, on Thursday against the Reds.
The Pirates staff’s only bad inning was the sixth, when the Tigers got three straight hits off Kuhl and scored three runs to pull within 6-3. That was surrounded with an excellent first five innings from Kuhl and a nine-up, nine-down performance by A.J. Schugel, George Kontos and Felipe Rivero.
Kuhl struck out six and walked one in six innings. He allowed the three runs on five hits — it was no runs and two hits through five innings. He touched 99 MPH with both the four-seam fastball and the sinker and used his knuckle curve a good bit to go with his standard slider.
With Juan Nicasio unavailable and even Rivero’s status in doubt, Schugel needed seven pitches and Kontos just six to get through the seventh and eighth innings, respectively. Rivero indeed came out for the ninth, needing only 13 pitches to plow through the Tigers after a taxing outing Sunday.
The Pirates got to Tigers starter Matt Boyd in the third, fourth and fifth.
Jordy Mercer’s leadoff double and Starling Marte’s two-out single got the Pirates a 1-0 lead in the third.
Andrew McCutchen led off the fourth with a homer to center field, and singles by David Freese and Sean Rodriguez and a walk to Francisco Cervelli followed. With two outs and the bases loaded, Kuhl fanned comically at a slow curve, but whacked the next curve he saw into left field for a two-run single and a 4-0 Pirates lead.
The Pirates chased Boyd in the fifth with three straight hits by Josh Harrison, McCutchen and Freese, the third scoring Harrison. A Mercer sacrifice fly plated McCutchen.
McCutchen and Freese both went 2-for-4, and McCutchen scored two runs.
The Pirates took both games in the Pittsburgh portion of the four-game interleague set. The teams square off in Detroit on Wednesday and Thursday.