PITTSBURGH -- Pirates starter Chad Kuhl bent but didn't break on Monday afternoon. But Pittsburgh's lineup never broke through against Cubs spot starter Mike Montgomery, and Chicago broke it open late as the Cubs beat the Bucs, 7-0, at PNC Park.The Pirates' clubhouse was mostly quiet after the loss, their
PITTSBURGH -- Pirates starter Chad Kuhl bent but didn't break on Monday afternoon. But Pittsburgh's lineup never broke through against Cubs spot starter Mike Montgomery, and Chicago broke it open late as the Cubs beat the Bucs, 7-0, at PNC Park.
The Pirates' clubhouse was mostly quiet after the loss, their eighth in the past 10 games, save for players' comments to the media about Anthony Rizzo's controversial eighth-inning slide into catcher Elias Diaz that broke up a double play, left Diaz lying in pain in front of the plate and led to manager Clint Hurdle being ejected.
On top of everything else, television cameras captured third baseman David Freese and third-base coach Joey Cora being separated in the dugout after a postgame disagreement. The Pirates did not retaliate against Rizzo or any other Cubs batter, but later met as a team to discuss what transpired and where they go from here.
"What needed to be said actually was said. It was definitely spoken about," veteran infielder Sean Rodriguez said. "We definitely had to get together, and some things were said. That's how it is. There's 25 of us and then some, guys coming up and down. It's either you bond together and move forward together, become that much stronger, or let something like this obviously separate you."
The Cubs were weary entering Monday's matinee, having flown from Chicago to Pittsburgh after a Sunday night game at Wrigley Field. But Montgomery was well-rested after traveling early, and he made the Bucs' bats look tired. The left-hander allowed only two hits and struck out five over 5 2/3 innings in his first start of the season.
"That's an outstanding spot start," Hurdle said. "All the stuff that he does well, he did today all in one package to both the right-handed and left-handed hitters. He mixed. He added and subtracted. The different zoning of the pitches. Very, very effective."
Perhaps the only silver lining for the Pirates on Monday was the strong effort from Kuhl, who gave up four hits and four walks but struck out five over six innings. Kuhl's command came and went throughout the day, but the only big hit he allowed was Rizzo's leadoff homer in the second inning.
"One of those games where it could have easily gotten away, but it's really nice to just battle and get through six just giving up one run," Kuhl said.
Kuhl benefited from several defensive gems, including left fielder Corey Dickerson's home-run robbery of Kyle Schwarber in the second inning and Diaz's throw to catch Benjamin Zobrist stealing second during Kuhl's three-walk third. And like Jameson Taillon on Sunday, Kuhl leaned heavily on his slider with Diaz behind the plate. Of his 93 pitches, 32 were sliders and eight were swung on and missed. The quality start lowered Kuhl's ERA on the season to 3.94.
"I thought he was fantastic keeping them off the plate," Hurdle said. "I thought he really did a fantastic job of putting his foot down and making some adjustments to get through six innings."
Meanwhile, the Pirates did not manage a hit until the fifth inning, when Dickerson choked up and slapped a one-out single to center field. Pittsburgh's only other hit off Montgomery was an infield single by Rodriguez in the sixth; Montgomery struck out the next two hitters, and reliever Steve Cishek fanned Josh Harrison to strand Rodriguez.
Left-hander Steven Brault gave up a two-run, pinch-hit homer to Addison Russell in the seventh. The controversial play at the plate in the eighth yielded two more runs. After being booed for sliding into Diaz, Rizzo slapped a two-run single to center off reliever Richard Rodriguez in the ninth.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Breathing room: Pitching on consecutive days for the first time in his Major League career, Brault inherited a one-run deficit in the top of the seventh. He allowed a single to Albert Almora Jr. then hung an 84.4-mph slider to Russell, who ripped it into the left-field seats to give the Cubs a three-run lead.
Hurdle said he liked Brault's ability to flip around the Cubs' switch-hitters, Ian Happ and Zobrist, but the righty-swinging Russell came in for left-handed second baseman Thomas La Stella and made Brault pay for his one mistake.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
In the top of the second inning, Dickerson ranged back and to his right before leaping to rob Schwarber of a home run in the left-field corner. It would've been the second homer in three at-bats, as Rizzo had led the inning off with a no-doubter to right field.
"My first thought was foul ball," Kuhl said. "Second thought, seeing him stand there and then kind of take of take off, was fly-ball out. And then it carried more than I thought, and maybe he thought, too. Then I looked back and he was making an unbelievable play."
HE SAID IT
"For me to come out of that game, he needed to break my leg."-- Diaz, on playing the remainder of the game after Rizzo's hard slide
"Offensively, we've missed some opportunities. Not a lot of opportunities today. But we've had a lot of opportunities in the other games, so we continue to create opportunities. We're just not finishing off things." -- Hurdle, on the Pirates' offensive struggles
Right-hander Nick Kingham was recalled to start against the Cubs on Tuesday at PNC Park at 7:05 p.m. ET. In three starts with the Pirates this season, the 26-year-old has allowed seven earned runs over 18 1/3 innings. Southpaw Jonathan Lester will make the start for Chicago.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.