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Cards' late homers not enough after rain delay

MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- Both Chad Kuhl and Michael Wacha picked up where they left off after a one-hour, 56-minute rain delay early Saturday afternoon. While Wacha struggled on the other side of the break, Kuhl seemingly only got stronger. Kuhl pitched five strong innings and the Bucs beat up on Wacha in the second, rolling to a 6-4 win at PNC Park.

The Pirates typically pull their starting pitchers when a rain delay exceeds 90 minutes. But they needed to preserve their tired bullpen and Kuhl threw only 25 pitches before the downpour, so they made an exception. The right-hander passed the time by playing catch and throwing off the mound in a batting cage. Then, he returned and completed five innings, allowing one run on three hits while striking out six.

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PITTSBURGH -- Both Chad Kuhl and Michael Wacha picked up where they left off after a one-hour, 56-minute rain delay early Saturday afternoon. While Wacha struggled on the other side of the break, Kuhl seemingly only got stronger. Kuhl pitched five strong innings and the Bucs beat up on Wacha in the second, rolling to a 6-4 win at PNC Park.

The Pirates typically pull their starting pitchers when a rain delay exceeds 90 minutes. But they needed to preserve their tired bullpen and Kuhl threw only 25 pitches before the downpour, so they made an exception. The right-hander passed the time by playing catch and throwing off the mound in a batting cage. Then, he returned and completed five innings, allowing one run on three hits while striking out six.

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"I had all the confidence in the world I was going to be back out there," Kuhl said. "Never really was a question in my mind with the state of our bullpen, not being so rested. I was 100 percent, no matter how long it took, I was ready."

Video: STL@PIT: Kuhl whiffs six, posts first extra-base hit

After a perfect first inning, Wacha sat for more than two hours before retaking the mound. The Cardinals, concerned they didn't have the bullpen coverage to handle eight innings of relief, needed Wacha to return. He tried to keep warm during the delay by throwing indoors about every 15 minutes.

"We kept in conversation to make sure everything felt fine. It did," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Now, between fine and big league sharp, that's two different things. Health was the first concern, and he felt OK, health-wise. At that point, we were just going to see what we could get and hope the guys could cover on the backside."

Wacha hung around to pitch four innings, but he struggled out of the gate. Six of the Pirates' first seven batters reached safely as Wacha served up two homers in a five-run second inning.

Video: STL@PIT: Wacha fans Harrison for first K in 2nd

"It was definitely not as sharp as whenever I was first warming up," Wacha said. "I didn't have really much command after the delay. It was tough to find that fastball command, missed a lot of locations and they make you pay for it once you miss location. It's just unfortunate."

Adam Frazier and Starling Marte led the Pirates' 12-hit attack with three hits and a homer apiece. The Bucs have scored 29 runs over their past four games.

"I just like the way we're stacking up. Everyone's throwing something in," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We've had periods of time where we haven't been the offense that we believe we can be, so to see them flex these four games, it's good to see. Nothing builds confidence like some success."

Video: STL@PIT: Hurdle on Kuhl's performance in 6-4 win

The Pirates snapped a six-game losing streak, tied for their longest of the season, to remain 6 1/2 games behind the Cubs in the National League Central standings. Chicago beat Toronto on Saturday, so St. Louis sits 2 1/2 games back in the division race.

"It's tough, going through those losses. They were playing really good ball," Kuhl said. "Their hitters were hot. It's just nice to end that. We have a really good opportunity to win tomorrow and make it a decent series."

Video: STL@PIT: Martinez drills a solo homer in the 9th

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Out goes Frazier: Before Saturday, Frazier had made a Major League plate appearance from every spot in the order except fifth. He started in the five-hole against Wacha, and it seemed to suit him. Frazier homered in his first at-bat, a two-run shot to center that traveled a Statcast-projected 401 feet, then doubled and singled in his next two trips to the plate.

Video: STL@PIT: Frazier mashes a two-run homer to center

Marte Partay: After an up-and-down return from his 80-game suspension, Marte may be rounding into form. Pittsburgh's left fielder went 3-for-4 with a 104.5-mph rocket of a two-run homer to center field off Wacha in the second inning. It was Marte's first home run since his suspension ended on July 18 and just his third of the season. He has 11 hits in his past 21 at-bats.

Video: STL@PIT: Marte launches a two-run homer in the 2nd

"It feels great to hit a home run. Right now, though, that's not my focus," Marte said through interpreter Mike Gonzalez. "It does feel great, but my focus right now is just making sure I get a good read off the pitches, hitting good line drives. That's what's making me feel a lot better."

QUOTABLE
"Chad was willing to pitch if he had to wait until tomorrow. It was just a very, very gritty performance by him to do the things he was able to do. … I'm watching a young man wanting to compete. He wants the ball. He wants to pitch. He just wants his turn. He wants to do everything he can to help us."-- Hurdle, on Kuhl

"Never really thought about it. I just wanted to continue what I was doing in [Triple-A] Memphis, try to be the same player I was down there up here and just try to do my thing every day. That's really what it comes down to." -- DeJong, on reaching the 20-homer mark in his rookie season

Video: STL@PIT: Matheny on 6-4 loss to Pirates

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Paul DeJong homered off Juan Nicasio in the eighth inning, his 20th of the season. He became the fourth rookie in Cardinals history to reach the 20-homer mark. Only Albert Pujols (37 in 2001), Chris Duncan (22 in '06) and Ray Jablonski (21 in 1953) previously accomplished the feat.

The Pirates have scored at least six runs in four straight games, the first time they have done so this season. Their last four-game streak in which they scored six or more runs was Sept. 15-17, 2016.

Jose Osuna entered the game in the sixth inning and homered off right-hander Josh Lucas, who was making his Major League debut. It was the rookie Osuna's first career pinch-hit homer. He entered the night with five homers on the year but only four hits in 37 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter.

Video: STL@PIT: Osuna crushes laser home run to lead off 6th

UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Trailing by two with one out in the ninth inning, Cardinals left fielder Randal Grichuk hit a hard ground ball to third base. Josh Harrison scooped it up and fired across the infield to Josh Bell, who had to leave his feet to snag Harrison's high throw. Grichuk was ruled safe at first base, but the Pirates challenged the call, as Bell appeared to tag Grichuk before his foot reached the bag. After a one-minute, three-second replay review, the call was overturned and Grichuk was ruled out.

Video: STL@PIT: Call at first overturned, Bucs win challenge

WHAT'S NEXT
Cardinals: The Cardinals will charter a flight to Williamsport, Pa., on Sunday morning, and after mingling with Little League World Series participants, they will head to Historic Bowman Field for Sunday's 6 p.m. CT game against the Pirates. Mike Leake will be the Cardinals' starting pitcher for the Little League Classic.

Pirates: The Pirates will take part in the first MLB Little League Classic at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday at Historic Bowman Field in Williamsport after spending the day around the Little League World Series complex. Right-hander Ivan Nova, wearing his "Super Nova" Players Weekend uniform, is scheduled to start for the Pirates in front of a crowd of approximately 2,500 -- most of them Little League players and their families.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Paul DeJong, Adam Frazier, Chad Kuhl, Starling Marte, Jose Osuna, Michael Wacha, Kolten Wong