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Kuhl, Pirates stumble early in loss to D-backs

Pirates starter has roughest outing of season, giving up eight runs
June 21, 2018

PITTSBURGH -- As Alex Avila rounded the bases after swatting a two-run homer in the third inning, Chad Kuhl stood in front of the mound and stared down at the infield grass. When he finally looked up, all he could do was shake his head.For six weeks, Kuhl was the

PITTSBURGH -- As Alex Avila rounded the bases after swatting a two-run homer in the third inning, Chad Kuhl stood in front of the mound and stared down at the infield grass. When he finally looked up, all he could do was shake his head.
For six weeks, Kuhl was the Pirates' best starter. But that encouraging stretch came to an abrupt end on Thursday night. Kuhl gave up eight runs on eight hits while recording only six outs in the Pirates' 9-3 loss to the D-backs at PNC Park.
"Especially after a string of really good starts, this one kind of just went sour," Kuhl said. "It was just frustration."
Kuhl posted a 2.89 ERA over his previous eight starts, and the Pirates won five of those games. He allowed only eight earned runs in 46 2/3 innings over his last five starts, but he matched that total before he could record an out in the third inning on Thursday.
"Just one of those nights where it felt like, no matter what, I was getting hit hard," Kuhl said.

Right-hander Zack Godley kept the Pirates off the board for three innings before Starling Marte walked and scored on Francisco Cervelli's single to right in the fourth. Marte doubled home Austin Meadows, who went 3-for-4 on the night, and scored on Colin Moran's sacrifice fly in the sixth.
"We started doing a little better job with [Godley] late, but there wasn't enough there," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We needed a couple swings with some men on base like they got early."
Much of Kuhl's recent improvement was due to his performance against left-handed hitters, as he held them to a .178 average over his last eight starts. But Arizona's lefties finished 6-for-10 with two homers against Kuhl on Thursday. It was the Pirates' worst start of the season and Kuhl's roughest outing since he allowed nine runs while recording five outs against the Cubs on April 24, 2017.
"What I saw was [Kuhl] behind in counts, elevated, and the execution and location was a little more middle and up than anything else," Hurdle said. "Left-handers put the barrel on him."
Arizona put 12 balls in play against Kuhl, and seven of them were hit harder than 95 mph, according to Statcast™. The D-backs did most of their damage against Kuhl's fastball, but Ketel Marte clubbed a down-and-in curveball into the right-field seats for a two-run homer in the first inning and Jonathan Jay pulled a slider to right field for a two-run double in the second.

"Pitches that I haven't been hurt on, I got hurt on tonight," Kuhl said. "Just felt like everything was getting hit."
Though he admitted it was "not ideal" to warm up a few times before Wednesday's rainout, Kuhl wouldn't blame his unusual schedule for the rough outing. He didn't feel like his delivery was off-kilter, either. But he did wonder if he had been tipping his pitches.
In a few previous starts, Kuhl's breathing patterns made it obvious when he was going to throw a fastball or an offspeed pitch. He cleaned up that issue, he said, but he planned to check if it resurfaced on Thursday.
Kuhl fell behind seven of the 15 hitters he faced. Two others put Kuhl's first pitch in play -- Daniel Descalso's sacrifice fly in the first inning and the Avila two-run homer on Kuhl's final pitch of the night, a fastball left over the middle of the plate.
"No sense in moping around. It's already over," Kuhl said. "When I get here tomorrow, we'll go through it, and we'll check it out."
Rough start: Kuhl never had a chance to get into a rhythm on the mound. Jay hit a leadoff double to left. A walk and a forceout later, Descalso smacked a sacrifice fly to right field. Ketel Marte followed with a two-run homer, giving Arizona a three-run lead in the first inning. It didn't get any better in the second inning, when Nick Ahmed laced a leadoff double to left. Jarrod Dyson singled and Jay -- a longtime Pirates nemesis -- ripped a two-run double to right. Paul Goldschmidt followed by beating the Bucs' shift with an RBI single to right.
"I just don't think the ball was coming out as well as it has, for whatever reason," Kuhl said. "Whatever reason that may be, I just felt like tonight was a little different. They hammered the balls over the plate."

Starling Marte ripped an RBI double to left-center in the sixth inning, his 800th career hit and 300th RBI. Of those 800 hits, 392 have come at PNC Park. Marte ranks behind only Andrew McCutchen (749), Jack Wilson (612), Neil Walker (432) and Freddy Sanchez (411) on PNC Park's all-time hits list.
"The sooner you can get over them, the better. As [horrible], maybe, as that sounds. The sooner you can flush it and get rid of it, the better. There's no sense moping around or dwelling on anything. I'm going to be out there in five days, and I have to go get big league hitters out. The sooner you can flush it, the better." -- Kuhl, on bouncing back from Thursday's start
Right-hander Ivan Nova will start for the Pirates against the D-backs at 7:05 p.m. ET on Friday. Nova is 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA and 11 strikeouts over 11 2/3 innings in two starts since coming off the DL on June 10. Lefty Patrick Corbin will start for Arizona at PNC Park.

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