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Kuhl comes through with quality start vs. Giants

MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- Nobody told Chad Kuhl that Saturday's start was more important than any other one, but he pitched like it was.

Over his previous 12 starts, a variety of circumstances -- performance, pinch-hitters, injuries and weather among them -- kept Kuhl from recording an out in the sixth inning. He posted a 6.58 ERA during that stretch while a pair of Triple-A starters thrived. But Kuhl issued a reminder of his ability against the Giants on Saturday, firing five no-hit innings before yielding a run in the sixth of a 2-1, 11-inning loss at PNC Park.

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PITTSBURGH -- Nobody told Chad Kuhl that Saturday's start was more important than any other one, but he pitched like it was.

Over his previous 12 starts, a variety of circumstances -- performance, pinch-hitters, injuries and weather among them -- kept Kuhl from recording an out in the sixth inning. He posted a 6.58 ERA during that stretch while a pair of Triple-A starters thrived. But Kuhl issued a reminder of his ability against the Giants on Saturday, firing five no-hit innings before yielding a run in the sixth of a 2-1, 11-inning loss at PNC Park.

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A day after the Giants piled up 13 runs on 18 hits, Kuhl held them to two hits and a walk over six innings. It was the first time since April 18 that Kuhl completed the sixth inning.

"I think every start's important. We don't try to create the drama here," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He knows what the situation is. He wants to pitch deeper into games. He put himself in a position to do that today. ... Proud of his effort today."

Kuhl needed only 75 pitches to record 18 outs. He would have returned for the seventh, but the Pirates pinch-hit for him with two on and two outs in the bottom of the sixth.

"Been a while," Kuhl said. "It's a good feeling, being able to get a quality start under my belt."

Kuhl allowed two earned runs or fewer in half of his previous 12 starts, and he never surpassed 100 pitches. There were silver linings and legitimate reasons he had not pitched deep into games.

Still, he entered the halfway point of the season Saturday with only two quality starts and a 5.58 ERA. Meanwhile, Steven Brault and Drew Hutchison have pitched well in Indianapolis, and Tyler Glasnow is working his way back after a disappointing start to the season.

But the Pirates have long believed in Kuhl's stuff and competitiveness. He showed both Saturday, allowing only one walk on 60 pitches in his first five innings.

"Really just fastball command and everything coming off of that," Kuhl said. "Just trying to attack, getting back to what I do best."

Kuhl cruised into the sixth, when Austin Slater broke up the no-hitter with a leadoff homer. Andrew McCutchen got to the wall and made a well-timed jump, but the ball sailed over McCutchen's outstretched glove and barely cleared the center-field fence.

Video: SF@PIT: Slater breaks up no-no with solo dinger

"I saw a bunch of Pirates fans clapping and I thought [Slater] was out," Kuhl said. "I thought he had it. Excellent read on it, perfectly timed jump. Just couldn't get it."

Last Sunday in St. Louis, Kuhl pitched into the sixth but could not finish it. Randal Grichuk led off the inning with a homer, and Yadier Molina followed with a double. The circumstances Saturday were oddly similar -- after Slater's homer, Denard Span hit a one-out double to left -- but he recovered to escape the inning with no further damage.

"The game isn't over because he hit a homer," Kuhl said. "You have to keep pitching. You have to go as long as you can. Just focus on the next pitch."

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, Chad Kuhl