PHILADELPHIA -- Josh Bell continues to provide power for the Pirates.
The Pirates' first baseman ripped a two-run home run in the fourth inning and a go-ahead double in the eighth inning in Thursday night's 6-3 victory over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Bell's double in the eighth against Phillies setup man Joaquin Benoit scored Andrew McCutchen and helped out Pirates right-hander Chad Kuhl, who allowed the game-tying runs in the seventh. The Pirates scored two more runs in the eighth to secure the victory, giving them three wins in the four-game series.
Bell, Gregory Polanco and McCutchen -- the National League Player of the Month in June -- are all clicking.
"That's scary. As a pitcher you go through lineups, and to see those guys put up the numbers they're starting to put up … that's a scary lineup," Kuhl said.
Kuhl, a Delaware native who grew up a Phillies fan, pitched well in front of his hometown crowd. He allowed six hits and three runs (two earned) in seven innings, giving him back-to-back quality starts for the first time since April. Kuhl is 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA in three career starts against the Phillies.
"Kuhl pitched great, for him it could very well be one of his best outings in the Major Leagues," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
"It's just awesome. Coming back here, it's always special," Kuhl said of the stadium he used to watch games in as a kid. "It's cool just to be in the dugout, on the field, the things you weren't allowed to do just coming here as a fan. The icing on the cake is just doing well."
Phillies right-hander Jeremy Hellickson allowed five hits and three runs in six innings. He struck out four. He has a 3.20 ERA in his last four starts, which is noteworthy as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches.
• Hellickson showcases stuff in quality start
"Just inconsistent," Hellickson said about his first half. "It was nice to finish halfway decent. The good thing is I feel great. The stuff is feeling good. It's just making too many mistakes with my changeup in the last couple starts. But fastball is feeling good, the curveball is coming around. I've just got to stop being lazy [with the changeup]."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Changeups and out: Hellickson allowed a two-run homer to Bell and a solo homer to Polanco, who went 4-for-4, in the fourth to hand the Pirates a 3-1 lead. Polanco's homer left his bat at 111.0 mph, according to Statcast™. It was his hardest-hit ball of any kind this season. Both homers came on changeups. Hellickson has allowed an MLB-high 10 homers on changeups this season, according to Statcast™. He allowed just three last season.
Altherr's up and down night:Aaron Altherr singled to left-center field to score two runs in the seventh to tie the game, 3-3. But Altherr was thrown out at second, trying to stretch the hit into a double. It was the second time Altherr got thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double and the third time it happened to the Phillies. It happened to Altherr and Odubel Herrera on back-to-back plays in the second. Pirates left fielder Jose Osuna got the assist each time.
"I thought I had both of those, easy doubles," Altherr said. "And then all of a sudden he makes a perfect throw on the base and got me out. I'll have to think twice next time I run on that guy. It's just a matter of trying to make something happen. I didn't make it happen. It's all good, though. Just got to keep battling and come back out tomorrow."
"I am very proud of them. They're gritty, they're resilient. We've had some hits out there. They keep showing up, they keep working, everybody wants to make a difference, everybody wants to carry their lunchpail and do what they need to do to help us win games, and we were able to do that tonight." -- Hurdle, on his bullpen holding the Phillies scoreless in 13 innings this series
"I thought he should have caught it." -- Phillies manager Pete Mackanin, on Bell's go-ahead double that got past first baseman Tommy Joseph in the eighth inning
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Osuna is the first Pirates player to have two outfield assists on consecutive plays since Gary Alexander against the Mets on Sept. 7, 1981. Osuna also is the first Pirates player to have three outfield assists in a game since Cecil Espy against the Cardinals on Aug. 12, 1991. Atlanta's Dale Murphy is the last player to accomplish the feat against the Phillies (July 18, 1988). Murphy got Chris James (at second base), Juan Samuel (at home plate) and Steve Jeltz (at third base) in that game.
"I haven't seen an outfielder have three assists," Hurdle said.
"I encourage the guys to be aggressive," Mackanin said. "However, when you take that hard turn going toward second base you should have time to decide whether or not to go. I think those guys, if they had to do it all over again, they would have stopped and went back to first base."
EYES ON THE BAT, NOT ON THE BALL
The Phillies scored their first run in the third inning on a truly bizarre play. Andres Blanco struck out swinging with Andrew Knapp on first base. But Blanco lost grip of the bat, which helicoptered into the stands. Everybody in the ballpark seemed to be watching the bat, including Pirates first baseman Bell. That was a problem because Pirates catcher Elias Diaz fired a pickoff throw to first. The ball sailed past Hall's face and into the right-field corner. Knapp motored around the bases and scored on the play.
"I said [to Bell], 'I love you man.' It's fine. I was watching the bat too, so if the ball was thrown back at me I wasn't looking. So you can't blame him, it's one of those things, just everyone's human reaction," Kuhl said.
"I've never seen it, been in the game for 43 years and I played baseball before and I've never seen this play," Hurdle said.
VELASQUEZ'S REHAB START
Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez made a rehab start with Double-A Reading on Thursday. He allowed three hits and two earned runs in three innings, throwing 52 pitches. He walked one and struck out four. Velasquez is expected to make one more rehab start before joining the Phillies' rotation sometime after the All-Star break.
Pirates: Pittsburgh heads off to Chicago for its final three games before the All-Star break to face the division-rival Cubs. The series begins with a 2:20 p.m. ET start pitting Pirates starter Trevor Williams (3-3, 4.67 ERA) against Cubs right-hander Eddie Butler (4-3, 4.18 ERA).
Phillies: The Phillies open a three-game series against the Padres at 6:35 p.m. ET on Friday at Citizens Bank Park. Right-hander Nick Pivetta (2-4, 4.85 ERA) makes his 11th start. He posted a 5.52 ERA in his first six starts, but has been a bit better recently. He is 1-1 with a 3.97 ERA in his last four starts.
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