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Kingham sunk by early damage in quality start

Pirates starter rebounds from 3-run first, but offense struggles against Padres veteran Richard
MLB.com @adamdberry

PITTSBURGH -- It took Nick Kingham an inning to settle in on Saturday night, but since it took the Pirates seven innings to unsettle Clayton Richard, the damage done early was enough to deal Kingham his first loss in the Majors.

Kingham turned a rough beginning into a quality start, allowing three runs in the first but nothing more as he completed six innings in his third Major League outing. But Richard breezed through the Pirates' typically patient lineup, needing only 67 pitches to complete seven innings, and the Padres' bullpen shut down the Bucs' late rally in San Diego's 6-2 win at PNC Park.

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PITTSBURGH -- It took Nick Kingham an inning to settle in on Saturday night, but since it took the Pirates seven innings to unsettle Clayton Richard, the damage done early was enough to deal Kingham his first loss in the Majors.

Kingham turned a rough beginning into a quality start, allowing three runs in the first but nothing more as he completed six innings in his third Major League outing. But Richard breezed through the Pirates' typically patient lineup, needing only 67 pitches to complete seven innings, and the Padres' bullpen shut down the Bucs' late rally in San Diego's 6-2 win at PNC Park.

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Kingham issued a one-out walk to Eric Hosmer in the first, then allowed a trio of doubles to Franchy Cordero, Jose Pirela and Christian Villanueva that put the Pirates in a three-run hole. Kingham returned to form after that, mixed in more offspeed pitches and allowed only three more hits while striking out four over his final five innings.

"He was able to deal with what's next," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "I've got to put a foot down, do what I can, maybe recreate my game a little bit, go to a Plan B and stop them. That's just what he did. That was really good to see."

But it was too little, too late with the way Richard was pounding the bottom of the strike zone. The veteran left-hander, who spent half of the 2015 season in the Pirates' system, scattered seven hits and recorded 13 groundouts while striking out two in 7 1/3 innings. The Pirates didn't get a runner beyond first base until Josh Bell tripled past diving center fielder Manuel Margot with two outs in the seventh inning.

Video: SD@PIT: Bell races to third on line drive to center

"He was just doing what he wanted, throwing lots of strikes, so we had to be aggressive," said Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer, who had three of Pittsburgh's hits off Richard. "He was getting the ball on the ground. That's what he likes to do."

The Pirates broke up the shutout in the eighth, when David Freese doubled then crossed the plate on a single by Mercer. Elias Diaz followed with a pinch-hit single to center, ending Richard's night. Sean Rodriguez launched an RBI double to the center-field wall off right-handed reliever Craig Stammen, pulling Pittsburgh within two runs, but Stammen recovered and retired Jose Osuna and Francisco Cervelli.

Video: SD@PIT: Rodriguez lines RBI double to deep center

The Padres put the game out of reach in the ninth. Margot reached on an error by Mercer, stole second, reached third on Diaz's throwing error and scored on a sacrifice fly. Cory Spangenberg then launched a solo shot off reliever George Kontos to extend the Padres' lead to four. Kontos, who has allowed runs in four of his last five outings, was pitching for the first time in a week after the Pirates removed him from a setup role.

"[Kontos] had an opportunity to get out there tonight, but he's not getting the balls to spots he wants to get to right now," Hurdle said. "We'll take a look at some of the stuff tonight and have a conversation tomorrow."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
First strike: Kingham's game plan was to be aggressive inside with his fastball, but the Padres came prepared. All three of San Diego's first-inning doubles came against inside fastballs, and all three were pulled down the line. The Padres forced Kingham to throw 26 pitches in the first, but he averaged only 14.4 pitches per inning after that.

"Tried to go in, to the inner part of the plate. They were hunting fastballs, jumping all over it," Kingham said. "So we kind of slowed them up the rest of the game, mixed the pitches a little bit more just to play chess to what they were doing, just to combat what they were doing. That was what got us through the six innings."

HE SAID IT
"[Jameson Taillon] told me you can pitch like a big leaguer anywhere. It doesn't matter where you're at. I'm playing against myself. I'm the competition. Doesn't matter who's in the box, I'm just trying to compete and execute my pitches to the best of my ability."--Kingham, on going from the Majors to Triple-A to Double-A and back to the Majors over the past three weeks

UP NEXT
San Diego native Trevor Williams will make his first start against his hometown Padres on Sunday at PNC Park. Williams is coming off his best outing of the season: seven scoreless innings with six strikeouts against the White Sox on Tuesday. Jordan Lyles will start for the Padres at 1:35 p.m. ET.

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

Pittsburgh Pirates, Nick Kingham