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Pirates can't weather early storm, fall to Cubs

Kingham lasts 1 IP, throwing 51 pitches; McRae bright spot in debut
MLB.com @adamdberry

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates and Cubs both supplemented their pitching staffs before Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. The Cubs unveiled their upgrades on Wednesday night, and the Pirates demonstrated their room for improvement.

Veteran left-hander Cole Hamels struck out nine over five innings in his Cubs debut, while rookie right-hander Nick Kingham lasted only one long inning in the Pirates' 9-2 loss at PNC Park. It was only Pittsburgh's fifth loss in 21 games.

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PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates and Cubs both supplemented their pitching staffs before Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. The Cubs unveiled their upgrades on Wednesday night, and the Pirates demonstrated their room for improvement.

Veteran left-hander Cole Hamels struck out nine over five innings in his Cubs debut, while rookie right-hander Nick Kingham lasted only one long inning in the Pirates' 9-2 loss at PNC Park. It was only Pittsburgh's fifth loss in 21 games.

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"It was a rough first inning all the way around," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "The overall execution wasn't what we've seen from him in past nights. … He ended up throwing 51 pitches in one inning; that's the reason he had to come out. That's just too many pitches to push a guy back out there."

The Pirates will roll out their new right-handers on Friday night, when they open a three-game series against the Cardinals with Chris Archer on the mound and Keone Kela in the bullpen. Archer said GM Neal Huntington initially asked him to pitch Wednesday's game, but after a quick move from Tampa Bay to Pittsburgh, Archer had his Pirates debut pushed back to Friday.

Archer warmly welcomed ahead of Friday debut

Video: CHC@PIT: Archer greets teammates, fans at PNC Park

Instead, Kingham got the start on Wednesday and struggled through the 51-pitch first inning. By the time it was over, the Pirates were down four runs with left-hander Steven Brault already warming up in the bullpen.

The Pirates' infield defense did Kingham few favors, but he was not particularly sharp, either. Hamels was the only hitter he struck out. He ran up three-ball counts against six of the nine hitters he faced. Kingham has allowed 10 runs, eight earned, on 10 hits while working only four innings over his past two starts.

Video: CHC@PIT: Kingham fans Hamels to record 1st strikeout

Kingham was not available for comment after the game. With Archer joining the rotation on Friday and Pittsburgh's other starters getting pushed back a day, it's possible Kingham will soon return to Triple-A Indianapolis.

Meanwhile, Hamels allowed only three hits and two walks in five innings. The Pirates scored just once against the lefty starter on Francisco Cervelli's RBI single up the middle in the first inning. Brandon Kintzler, acquired from the Nationals, did his part by working 1 1/3 scoreless innings.

Video: CHC@PIT: Hamels K's 9, records base hit in Cubs debut

"You want to be able to win a game for your new team and the guys here," Hamels said. "They've been playing outstanding baseball all season, and you kind of want to get in the mix. For them to put up the runs early, it made my job a little easier."

The Bucs will also bolster their bullpen on Friday with Kela, the former Rangers closer acquired early Tuesday morning. Brault and right-handers Alex McRae and Richard Rodriguez combined to allow five runs as they were asked to cover eight innings on Wednesday night.

Brault's command issues resurfaced in the second inning, as he served up back-to-back hits before an intentional walk that preceded two run-scoring walks. Brault allowed five hits and walked five in his three innings and exited with the Pirates trailing by five.

"I tried to slow the game down and get [as few] runs as possible to keep the team in the game and come back, because everybody knows that we are capable of coming back at any time, little by little," catcher Cervelli said. "But we couldn't do it today. It was a crazy game."

Perhaps the lone bright spot for the Pirates came by way of McRae making his Major League debut. McRae allowed one earned run while recording three strikeouts over three innings of relief, the Bucs' most effective performance of the night.

Video: CHC@PIT: McRae fans Happ for his 1st career strikeout

"It's a hard night to make your debut, and he did a nice job with it," Hurdle said. "He did the best he could with the opportunity that he had. To give us the three innings was solid. … He hasn't had a lot of opportunity, and he stayed ready and stayed focused. I thought he did a very professional job."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Many mistakes: Kingham walked Anthony Rizzo to lead off the game, gave up a double to Ben Zobrist -- the only hard-hit ball of the messy first inning -- then induced an RBI groundout from Jason Heyward. Javier Baez ended a 10-pitch at-bat with a run-scoring grounder, but second baseman Sean Rodriguez couldn't convert the out at first base.

Video: CHC@PIT: Baez pushes home Zobrist, reaches on error

After hitting Ian Happ, Kingham attempted to catch Baez stealing third base but wound up throwing the ball into foul territory, allowing Baez to easily score the third run of the inning. Kyle Schwarber then hit a ground ball that bounced off a diving Rodriguez's glove for an RBI infield single. After another infield single, a strikeout and a wild pitch, Kingham got Addison Russell to pop out and walked into the dugout.

Video: CHC@PIT: Baez scores on Kingham's throwing error

"Some balls were hit hard. They were well placed," Hurdle said. "We didn't handle the ball well. He's got a guy caught, and we're not able to execute the play."

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Cubs center fielder Happ, a Pittsburgh native, robbed McRae of his first Major League hit to begin the fifth inning. McRae cracked a first-pitch fastball from Hamels to center field. The ball had an 83 percent hit probability, according to Statcast™, and just a 34 percent catch probability. But Happ flung himself forward and made the diving catch, much to McRae's chagrin.

"I started to see him diving," McRae said, "and I was like, 'I hope it gets past him and I can try for an inside-the-park home run or something.'"

Video: CHC@PIT: Happ's grab has 34% catch probability

HE SAID IT
"I kind of blacked out for a little bit, to be honest. I think once I got out on the mound and threw a couple pitches, I settled in a little bit. I got the first guy out, which helps a ton. After that, it was a little bit easier."--McRae, on making his Major League debut in his second stint with the Pirates

INJURY UPDATE
Home-plate umpire Chris Guccione took a foul ball off his mask during Heyward's at-bat in the third inning. Guccione stayed in the game and Heyward doubled. But after Baez walked, Guccione left the game and second-base umpire Ed Hickox took over behind home plate. They finished the game with a three-man crew.

Video: CHC@PIT: Guccione takes foul ball off mask, exits

UP NEXT
Archer will make his Pirates debut in the opener of a three-game series with the Cardinals at PNC Park on Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Archer started 17 games for the Rays this season, posting a 3-5 record with a 4.31 ERA and 1.39 WHIP. Right-hander John Gant will start for the Cardinals.

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

Pittsburgh Pirates, Nick Kingham, Alex McRae