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Bucs’ bullpen failures mount in 7-4 loss to Reds

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

The Pirates’ bullpen continued to get torched for multiple-run innings as the team blew an early 4-0 lead and lost to the Reds, 7-4.

The Pirates got off to a fast start. In the first, Corey Dickerson lined a two-run double down the right field line, following two-out singles by Starling Marte and Josh Bell. The throw to the plate beat Bell by about five steps, but catcher Tucker Barnhart whiffed on it. The Bucs added two more in the second with the help of an error on a sacrifice attempt. Josh Harrison plated one with a sacrifice fly and Adam Frazier got the other in with a bloop single that Billy Hamilton, had he been in the game, would have gotten bored waiting to catch.

After that, though, the Pirates let starter Sal Romano off the hook and he sailed through three more innings.

Meanwhile, Chad Kuhl struggled mightily in most of his innings. He repeatedly fell behind hitters, often 3-0 or 3-1. He was being squeezed some of the time, but many of his pitches were nowhere near the strike zone. But somehow or other, though, he usually got out of trouble, often with strikeouts, of which he totaled seven in five innings. He allowed single runs in the third and fifth, and stranded a half dozen runners while allowing five hits, a walk and a hit batsman. Kuhl left with a 4-2 lead having thrown 98 pitches, only 54 of them for strikes.

Under normal circumstances, Clint Hurdle would, or at least should, have relieved Kuhl with one out in the fifth. In the sixth, Dovydas Neverauskas showed why Hurdle didn’t. Despite facing the bottom of the order, he ended up with the bases loaded, then gave up a two-run, two-out single to Eugenio Suarez, tying the game at four.

Hurdle moved on to his late-inning trio, or tried to, but it fell apart in the eighth. George Kontos had a chance to work out of a first-and-third, one-out jam, created in part by the inevitable Hamilton single as a pinch hitter. Kontos got a line out from Jesse Winker, but surrendered a three-run bomb to Suarez, giving him five RBIs.

The Reds’ struggling bullpen blew the Pirates away over the next three innings, retiring nine straight. Colin Moran led off the ninth against closer Raisel Iglesias with a single but, in a mind-numbing TOOTBLAN, got himself thrown out stealing. Two more quick outs ended it.

The Pirates can still do the impossible and win a series from the Reds tomorrow, with Jameson Taillon on the mound.