PITTSBURGH -- Aaron Nola's worst pitch of the day came at the worst possible moment. After the Phillies decided to intentionally walk Josh Bell to load the bases with one out in the sixth, Nola hit David Freese in the back to bring home the only run in the Pirates' 1-0 win on a rainy Sunday afternoon at PNC Park.
It was the first time a game's only run came on a hit-by-pitch since July 5, 1998, when Scott Erickson hit Chad Curtis in the third inning in the Yankees' 1-0 win over Orioles.
That might explain why few players in the Pirates' clubhouse could recall playing in such a game.
"Not since maybe Little League," starter Chad Kuhl said. "That's a little bit of a wild stat. A win's a win. We'll take it."
The Pirates' scoring threat in the sixth began with a pair of singles by left fielder Adam Frazier and second baseman Josh Harrison. Harrison then stole second to place runners on second and third with no outs. After Andrew McCutchen grounded out to third, the Phillies sent Bell immediately to first base. It proved to be the wrong decision when Nola hit Freese two pitches later, forcing in a run.
It was one of the only mistakes Nola made on the day. Nola finished the game with five strikeouts while only allowing four hits and issuing two walks in seven innings. The Phillies have lost 17 of their last 21 games to fall to 15-26.
"I was confident," said Nola, who spent a month on the DL with a strained lower back. "My body felt good, back felt good. I felt like I didn't skip a beat."
But the Pirates didn't have to generate much offense with right-hander Kuhl delivering one of his best performances of the season. Kuhl surrendered one hit, struck out five batters and issued two walks in five innings. The Pirates' bullpen picked up where Kuhl left off, helping the Bucs take the three-game series and win for the sixth time in their last eight games.
"We've had a lot of stuff go on in the first month and a half or so here. We've had guys moving up and down," Pirates closer Tony Watson said. "It's a fun time to be in here. Things are going well, and guys are backing each other up and getting the job done."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Great Escape: After cruising through four innings, Kuhl finally encountered some trouble in the fifth. A Maikel Franco double and a walk placed runners on first and second with one out and prompted a visit to the mound from Pirates' pitching coach Ray Searage. Kuhl, however, navigated out of the jam by striking out the next two hitters.
"It's always great. It puts a nice cap on the inning and preserves that nothing-nothing ballgame," Kuhl said. "Huge to be still in a good position after five. It felt great." More >
Left Stranded: The Phillies threatened to score again in the eighth. After Pirates reliever Felipe Rivero recorded two straight outs, a fiedling error by Rivero and a single by shortstop Freddy Galvis placed runners on first and second. Rivero, however, rebounded by striking out Aaron Altherr to end the frame.
"I Just try to keep throwing strikes," Rivero said of escaping the jam. "Anybody can get on base. The mentality I have [is] if somebody gets on base, you try not to think about it. I think that's the main reason.
"It's baseball. Anything can happen at any time. I'm just thankful that we got it in. It's something you have to work around ... I like the cold. Whatever makes it worse for the hitter, I'm good with it." -- Kuhl, on pitching in the rain
"What a breath of fresh air. He looked like his old self today. That's the thing I take out of this game that I'm real happy about." -- Phillies manager Pete Mackanin, on Nola.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Frazier extended his multi-hit streak as a starter to six games. The last Pirates player to have a longer streak was McCutchen in June 8-15, 2014, when he went eight straight games with two or more hits.
Phillies: Right-handed pitcher Jerad Eickhoff will start for the Phillies at 7:05 p.m. ET on Monday as they begin a four-game series against the Rockies at Citizens Bank Park. Eickhoff looked a little more like himself last week in Texas, allowing three runs in six innings. He had struggled in his three previous starts, allowing 14 earned runs in 15 innings.
Pirates: Right-hander Gerrit Cole will start for the Pirates at 7:35 p.m. ET on Monday as they open a four-game series against the Braves at SunTrust Park. Cole is coming off a string of quality starts. In his last five outings, Cole has struck out 31 batters, while issuing only six walks and allowing seven earned runs. He holds the fifth-lowest ERA among National League starters in May.
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