Kuhl pitches past fatigue
Chad Kuhl was absolutely superb on this Labor Day evening at PNC Park. With the Allegheny River sprinkled with boats and a pleasant breeze sweeping through the park, the Pirates right-hander navigated through a rocky first three innings before retiring 13 of the next 14 batters, on his way to seven shutout innings.
Kuhl fought off some wildness in the second, as eight of his first nine pitches ran way out of the zone. He extracted himself, however, thanks to Starling Marte. With runners on first and second and none out, Jason Heyward hit a liner into left that Marte ran in and grabbed at his shoe tops. Mike Freeman followed with a bloop single to left. Marte charged in on the hit and threw a bullet home that beat Ben Zobrist by two steps. Kuhl then struck out Jake Arrieta, and the threat was extinguished.
"There was some turbulence in the second, Ray [Searage] and him came in and had a chat. [Kuhl] didn't feel like he had a full tank, which, maybe, played to his advantage, as he went to pitching." Clint Hurdle said. "He actually used five pitches today, which is a little uncommon for him."
As close as the second inning came to going sideways, Kuhl blew threw straight through the fourth by striking out the side - Ben Zobrist, Alex Avila and Jason Heyward - on 15 pitches.
"Baseball's weird, there's been games where I felt really good and only gone four innings, then there are games you feel really bad and have to fight through some things," Kuhl said. "I wasn't looking at the radar, but it wasn't my freshest day. But I managed to get through seven."
Kuhl ended with a career high eight strikeouts and two walks allowed. The Cubs managed four hits and left five men stranded. For Pirates starters it's the third straight Bill James' "gem," as Kuhl posted a 78 gamescore. Taillon scored a 69 on Saturday and Williams a 65 Sunday.
"He met all the challenges that were out there for him today ... very proud of his effort," Hurdle said.
The joy of youth
The Pirates offense supported Chad Kuhl with early runs, and then added on three more along the way before knocking the wheels off this one in with a seven run eighth. Joe Maddon brought in position player, Leonys Martin, to pitch with one out in the eighth after the score bulged to 8-0.
The offensive attack was led led by the Pirates young hitters. Four rookies -- Josh Bell, Max Moroff, Jordan Luplow and Elias Diaz -- combined for ten hits, five runs, nine RBIs and two homers.
"If you had to draw it up, you'd probably be happy with a little bit less than that," Hurdle said of the youth-led offense. "The results matched the effort. The preparation put into it work out well for them and for us today."
The Pirates scored two runs in the first, after Bell dropped a high home run over the Clemente Wall. It was his 24th homer of the season, and upped his career line against Jake Arrieta to 7-for-14 with two homers. The home run also broke Chipper Jones' record for most home runs by a National League switch-hitter.
"He is, for the most part, sinker and cutter to me," Bell said of his success against Arrieta. "If I can see up, I can see it out over, I can put an A-swing on it and hopefully do damage."
In the third, Moroff led off the inning with home run that left PNC Park over the right field stands. Like Bell's homer, Moroff's was more high and majestic than it was a screaming drive.
"You don't have to be a big guy to hit a ball for distance," Hurdle said of Moroff. "When his swing is connected and it arrives on time, the man has barrel strength. He's one of those guys when you come out and watch batting practice you're like, ‘wow', he hits balls with Bell."
Jake Arrieta left the game a batter after facing Moroff with an apparent hamstring injury.
On the evening, every Pirates position player ended up with two hits or more, with the exception of Sean Rodriquez. Big performances included: Moroff, 3-5, two runs and four RBIs, Marte, 2-4, two runs scored, and Bell, 3-5, four RBIs.
"It was a good day for Pirates baseball," Hurdle said. "It was a good day for these young men to compete to go out and compete. It was a good day for our team."
Hurdle reported extension
Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports that Clint Hurdle and the Pirates have agreed to a four year extension.
After the game, Hurdle said he would allow the organization to make any forthcoming announcements before he confirmed anything.
"I've made it clear from the beginning that a contract would work out when it was meant to work out," Hurdle said. "I love working here. I'm proud to be a Pirate. I want to do everything I can to bring a world championship to this city ... [an extension] would be humbling."