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Homers hurt Kuhl, Bucs in loss to Nationals

MLB.com @basebollie

WASHINGTON -- The Pirates needed a third consecutive strong outing from starter Chad Kuhl to contend with Nationals ace Max Scherzer. The Pittsburgh right-hander was unable to deliver, instead lasting 4 2/3 innings in his shortest outing of the season as the Bucs fell to the Nats, 12-4, on Tuesday night at Nationals Park.

Kuhl, who entered Tuesday on the heels of back-to-back quality starts -- a pair of victories over the Rockies and Tigers -- surrendered six runs (four earned) on four hits and two walks. He struck out three.

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WASHINGTON -- The Pirates needed a third consecutive strong outing from starter Chad Kuhl to contend with Nationals ace Max Scherzer. The Pittsburgh right-hander was unable to deliver, instead lasting 4 2/3 innings in his shortest outing of the season as the Bucs fell to the Nats, 12-4, on Tuesday night at Nationals Park.

Kuhl, who entered Tuesday on the heels of back-to-back quality starts -- a pair of victories over the Rockies and Tigers -- surrendered six runs (four earned) on four hits and two walks. He struck out three.

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Scherzer, meanwhile, extended his Major League lead by picking up his sixth win. He struck out eight and allowed two runs on three hits in 6 1/3 frames.

Video: PIT@WSH: Scherzer fans 8, hits RBI single vs. Pirates

"We've seen him throw a no-hitter. That set the bar pretty high when you've seen a guy throw a no-hitter," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Fastball was pumped early. We had some fastballs to hit early, we didn't. Once he starts sprinkling that secondary [stuff] and that changeup comes into play, it's rough, man."

The 25-year-old Kuhl had given up just three home runs in his previous five games to begin 2018, but served up four long balls on a warm, 83-degree evening in the nation's capital. Wilmer Difo got to Kuhl for a solo shot in the third before Matt Adams took him deep in the fourth to extend the Washington lead to two. Bryce Harper crushed a three-run shot in the fifth before Adams followed two batters later to knock Kuhl from the contest.

Video: PIT@WSH: Adams hits his second homer of the game

"That's the thing with those guys, especially Bryce. Super talented," Kuhl said. "Any time in the ballgame they can connect and do that. Special player."

Right-hander Tyler Glasnow allowed six runs in the sixth inning in relief of Kuhl, ending the 17 1/3-inning scoreless streak posted by the Pirates' bullpen. Corey Dickerson homered for the second straight game for Pittsburgh, which lost for the second consecutive day after bringing a five-game win streak into its series with Washington.

Video: PIT@WSH: Dickerson drills a 2-run homer to right

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
For the first time since 2013, Harper hit leadoff and his place in the order ended up being a true factor during his third at-bat of the night. Harper got his chance to do some damage in the fifth, a situation that potentially arose thanks to Nationals manager Dave Martinez's new batting order.

Scherzer reached on an error by third baseman Colin Moran before Difo walked, and that's when the Nats' most feared slugger stepped to the plate. He got his pitch -- a middle-middle sinker -- and didn't miss it, crushing his ninth homer of the year 110.5 mph and 416 feet, per Statcast™.

Video: PIT@WSH: Harper cranks an opposite-field 3-run homer

Kuhl had no choice but to pitch to Harper, who has batted third in every other game this season. Catcher Francisco Cervelli called for the pitch up and in, but it leaked back out over the plate and dropped right into Harper's sweet spot, only to land deep into the left-center-field seats. The home run extended the Nats' lead to five.

"Bryce hits homers and he's got a big swing and a lot of confidence at the plate," Hurdle said. "You saw him take some big swings at some curveballs that just hung up so there's not anywhere to go. You're not going to walk him first and second. You're a Major League pitcher. You've got to attack the zone and get outs and he just got caught in a hot spot."

HE SAID IT
"I don't think I can remember the last time a pitcher gave up four hits and all four were homers to left-handed hitters." -- Hurdle, on Kuhl

UP NEXT
Ivan Nova gets the ball looking to build off his best start of the season, an eight-inning scoreless gem in which he struck out five and scattered six hits. The right-hander will oppose Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET. 

Oliver Macklin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter at @basebollie.

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