Kuhl cools Kershaw: Play at plate crucial

June 27th, 2016

PITTSBURGH -- The final play of Chad Kuhl's Major League debut summed up his triumphant outing. After a wild pitch bounced off the brick behind home plate in the fifth inning, catcher Chris Stewart chased the ball down and tossed it to Kuhl, who didn't hesitate as he caught the ball and lunged head-first to tag out Justin Turner at home plate.

Kuhl tagged Turner in the chest, hopped up and fist-pumped his way back to the dugout. He had outdueled Clayton Kershaw, leaving after five innings with a 4-3 lead, and four scoreless innings from the Pirates' bullpen helped him to his first Major League win.

"You gotta love the kid going in head-first with the ball and the glove, too," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "I mean, that's backyard baseball at it's finest."

Kuhl kept his emotions in check through a close five innings, allowing three runs on four hits, while walking four and striking out five. After the putout at home, Kuhl had no reason not to celebrate, but he kept his focus and bounced back from mistakes throughout the game.

After two walks and a Howie Kendrick single loaded the bases in the first inning, Yasiel Puig grounded into a forceout off a 96 mph fastball, stranding three on base. Kuhl escaped the first inning and could breathe again.

"The first inning was a little shaky," Kuhl said. "I really tried to kind of ease my way into it, not be overexcited or anything like that. I did my best."

He gave up a two-run homer to Turner in the third inning and a double to Turner in the fifth. The double put Turner on base and set up the putout at home later in the inning.

"There was probably a lot going on inside," Hurdle said. "And I thought he channeled his emotions well. The home run stung him a little bit. But it's like, it's the big leagues. That guy's hit a couple before. You're alright. Keep moving around. They score runs up here."

Not only did Kuhl earn the win against the National League Cy Young winner and 2014 NL MVP, he also battled him at the plate, taking full advantage of the matchup.

In the second inning, Kuhl struck out on the eighth pitch of his at-bat, and a tired Kershaw then allowed Adam Frazier an RBI single and David Freese a three-run double, putting Pittsburgh up, 4-0.

"You go up against him, and that's something you can dream about," Kuhl said. "My first debut was against Kershaw."

You can't ask for much more than that.