Monday, June 27, 2016

Kuhl debut! Bucs' rookie outduels Kershaw

Sparked by one rookie on the mound and another in right field, the Pirates beat the seemingly unbeatable Clayton Kershaw on Sunday night at PNC Park, riding Chad Kuhl's Major League debut and a four-run second inning to a 4-3 victory over the Dodgers.
"That was a really, really fun team win," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said, "from all over the place."
Kershaw took just his second loss of the season, giving up nine hits and two walks (one intentional) while striking out four over six innings. He was outdueled by Kuhl, making his first big league start on a national stage against baseball's best pitcher. The Dodgers lost their third straight to the Pirates, who have pulled back within two games of .500.
"I wish I had an excuse for you. I just didn't pitch well enough to win tonight," Kershaw said.
Kuhl earned the win, holding the Dodgers to three runs on four hits and four walks while striking out five over five innings. The 23-year-old right-hander walked two and loaded the bases in the first inning but escaped unscathed when Yasiel Puig grounded out to third base.
"That was huge for the game. Getting out of that, getting some confidence," Kuhl said. "I feel like it really set the tone for the rest of the outing."
Adam Frazier, recalled Friday from Triple-A Indianapolis, entered the game after one inning for injured shortstop Jordy Mercer and struck the unlikely first blow against Kershaw. Frazier knocked a bases-loaded single to left field, putting the Pirates on the board. First basemanDavid Freese followed by ripping a bases-clearing double to the right-center field gap.
"They spoiled some pitches. A couple pitches were mislocated and they took advantage of some misfires," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "You get Frazier ahead in the count and misfire there, then the big blow to Freese, tried to go inside and left it out over the plate. That's the difference in the game. Other than that, Kersh was zeroes."
Kuhl matchup: Kuhl received a standing ovation after battling Kershaw at the plate for eight pitches. Though he eventually struck out on an 89 mph slider on a 2-2 count, his at-bat tired Kershaw. Frazier took advantage and singled to left field, scoring Josh Harrison and giving the Pirates a 1-0 lead. More >
"That was pretty awesome to see him battling like that," Frazier said. "I was hoping he'd get a hit, obviously, but I was like, 'I better get ready to fight, too. I'm going to look bad if I don't.'"
Not like Kershaw: From the 30 pitches needed to get three outs to the three-run double he allowed to Freese, the four-run second inning was a rarity for Kershaw. Most indicative was that he walked a batter, Sean Rodriguez, before striking one out, Kuhl in his debut. The walk was the eighth he's issued this season, the strikeout No. 142. More >
"He did a good job, fouled a lot of pitches off," Kershaw said of the Kuhl at-bat. "For his first Major League at-bat, give him credit."
Building a bridge: Searching all season for a way to get the ball from their starting pitcher to closer Mark Melancon, the Pirates turned to an unlikely setup combination in the sixth and seventh innings. In his first appearance since being bumped to the bullpen, right-handerJuan Nicasio threw nine pitches in a perfect sixth inning, and A.J. Schugel followed up with a scoreless seventh and eighth. Melancon recorded his 22nd save with a perfect ninth inning.
"Schugel showing up the way he did, holy cow," Hurdle said. "He was very efficient. Nicasio coming in and throwing really well for the inning. Fun to watch, man. Guys were pumped."
Turner still on fire: Justin Turner drove in all of the Dodgers' runs with a two-run homer and RBI double. Turner also had a walk and now has eight home runs and 21 RBIs in June. Turner tried to score the tying run in the fifth inning from third base when a pitch got away from catcher Chris Stewart, who took the rebound off the backstop and threw a strike to Kuhl, who tagged out Turner at the plate.
"I've been feeling good at the plate," said Turner. "I feel I'm continuing to hit balls hard and getting good results right now. Definitely getting a few hits under the belt is good for anyone's confidence."
"It's one of the beautiful things about sport. You can't write that story before the game. You're not going to have that in there anywhere." -- Hurdle, on the play at the plate that ended the fifth inning
"We just found ways to get it done. The effort we needed out of the box was to out-compete him, because that guy's going to compete every pitch. I think we've been able to match the effort." -- Hurdle, on beating Kershaw
Stewart went 2-for-3 with a double against Kershaw, making him 9-for-17 in his career against the Dodgers ace. Stewart's nine hits are the most he has against any pitcher.
Kershaw, who entered the night with a 1.7 percent walk rate, twice walked Rodriguez, who last season walked in 2.1 percent of his plate appearances.
The Pirates have won three consecutive games for the first time in a month, as their last winning streak longer than two games came when they won five in a row from May 23-27.
The umpires initiated a crew chief review on Turner's third-inning homer to determine whether a fan interfered with the ball. After a 58-second replay review, the call was confirmed.
Dodgers: Scott Kazmir, who hasn't faced the Pirates since 2008, starts for the Dodgers Monday in a 9:35 a.m. PT getaway game. Kazmir battled through six innings in his last start, limiting the damage to two runs on eight hits despite serving up a pair of home runs. His 14 home runs allowed are a team high.
Pirates: Left-hander Francisco Liriano will start the Pirates' series finale against the Dodgers at 12:35 p.m. ET on Monday. Liriano is 4-0 with a 2.73 ERA in five career starts against the Dodgers, but Pittsburgh's Opening Day starter has struggled this season. Liriano is 0-4 with a 6.92 ERA in his last five starts, and he's walked at least three batters in each of his last six starts.

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