Rockies Kuhl off Dodgers with 3-hit shutout

Colorado right-hander fired up after his 1st career complete game in series opener

June 28th, 2022

DENVER -- Rockies right-hander Chad Kuhl threw full energy into a three-hit, 4-0 shutout of the Dodgers on Monday night at Coors Field for his first career complete game. But he had more energy than he knew what to do with after 101 pitches in the quick, 2-hour, 19-minute contest.

So there he was, pacing and rubbing emotional eyes throughout a conversation with his parents back in Delaware, Clint and Wendy.

“Obviously, they’re living and dying every fifth day with my performances -- they’ve always been like that,” Kuhl said.

And he gave an idea where his kinetic slant on life -- one he had to trick himself into amping down as he prepared for the ninth inning -- comes from. Think he’s amped up? How about the parents.

“Believe it or not, they’re more so,” he said.

The Rockies needed Kuhl’s brand of energy. They returned home after a 1-5 road trip, and have been last in the National League West every day since May 10. Yes, left fielder Kris Bryant’s return from a back injury offered some promise, and Monday’s start of a 17-game stretch against NL West foes offered at least a chance to improve their lot.

But Kuhl’s performance, which included five strikeouts, José Iglesias’ first home run after 262 at-bats dating to last year (when he was helping the Red Sox to the postseason), and the defense provided tangible lifts. And a team that is 32-42, yet has lost way too many winnable games, needed Kuhl to leave no doubt.

And manager Bud Black, who was comfortable when Kuhl entered the ninth inning at just 87 pitches, wanted him to go all the way even though closer Daniel Bard was warming up.

Kuhl, who joined the Rockies in 2022 after five seasons with the Pirates, understands his excitement. So does catcher, Elias Díaz, who was with him part of that time in Pittsburgh. But Kuhl was able to manage his emotions by remembering that the Bucs moved him to the bullpen late last season.

That move led him to accept being non-tendered by his former club, which led to a new opening -- a one-year, $3 million contract with the Rockies. Going into the ninth inning against Los Angeles, he found another way to use the disagreeable move by his former team for the good.

“I’ve been in the ninth before, just out of the bullpen,” Kuhl said. “It wasn’t my first time, technically, in the ninth inning.

“I was able to keep my emotion and adrenaline in check and still execute pitches.”

Gavin Lux doubled to lead off the ninth. Black sent pitching coach Darryl Scott to the mound, to make sure Bard was ready if needed. But Kuhl fanned Trayce Thompson on a slider, a pitch that had worked well for him, benefitted from a nice backhand from third baseman Ryan McMahon to retire Trea Turner and let go of his emotions after Freddie Freeman flied to center.

The first hit, Lux’s infield single in the third, was erased when center fielder Yonathan Daza fielded Thompson’s fly to deep center, heeded right fielder Randal Grichuk’s warning that Lux was running, and threw him out at second. Another hit, Freeman’s single in the seventh, came on what Kuhl acknowledged was the only time he shook off Díaz’s pitch call.

Kuhl at times has been the Rockies’ best pitcher this season, although lately Germán Márquez and Kyle Freeland are finding their form, while Antonio Senzatela is performing well at home. On Monday, Kuhl held serve with his first win within the division this season, the first shutout from a Rockies starter since Márquez’s one-hitter against the Pirates on July 29, 2021.

“From pitch one until the end of the game, I thought he stayed within his delivery,” said Black, who noted that Kuhl won with fastball movement, a sharp slider and a changeup against lefty batters. “He was on point as far as not overthrowing the ball in certain situations. There were a couple that I saw, but he just stayed within himself the whole game.”

When it was over, Kuhl shed his control and rushed to his wife, Amanda, their 15-month-old son, Hudson, and to his parents and others.

“I’ve got a lot more people than that in my corner,” Kuhl said. “They were super-fired up. My brother-in-law, my brother and my sister, they were all calling me at the same time. I can’t wait to reach out to all of them.”