Kuhl receives plenty of run support as Pirates bludgeon Phillies
PHILADELPHIA — Chad Kuhl went to high school and college in Delaware, with both campuses about an hour's drive from Citizens Bank Park.
In June, Kuhl became the first University of Delaware product to start a major league game since Dallas Green in 1965. Although his Pirates debut was special, Kuhl was just as hyped about Thursday's game against the Philadelphia Phillies.
“It was everything I thought it'd be and more,” Kuhl said. “When I got out to the bullpen, I saw old coaches, friends and people who've had hands in my development and my life growing up.”
With about 100 of his family and friends in the stands, Kuhl looked sharp as the Pirates hammered the Phillies, 15-2.
“They were very boisterous,” said John Jaso, who smacked the first of five home runs by the Pirates. “As the game got later and later … and maybe as the drinks came around more and more, it got louder.”
The Pirates' first seven runs came via the long ball. Andrew McCutchen hit a pair of solo shots in his 12th career multi-homer game.
When he stopped by the Pirates clubhouse before the game, retired pitcher A.J. Burnett asked McCutchen to hit a pair of home runs.
“He said, ‘Get me two,' and I told him, ‘All right. I'll do it,' ” McCutchen said.
Perhaps Burnett's visit inspired the Pirates, who went in having lost 13 of their previous 16 games.
“It's always good to see A.J.,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “They started smiling early, and they were able to smile throughout the game.”
The Pirates scored eight runs in the ninth, matching their season high for an inning and setting a season best for runs scored in a game.
“It shows we've still got it,” McCutchen said. “It's still in there. We've just got to do it.”
Kuhl (4-3) worked six innings, gave up two runs and four hits, and struck out five. It was a tidy, 68-pitch performance.
In his last outing Sept. 5, Kuhl gave up three runs and four hits in two innings.
Hurdle said the problem wasn't that the rookie was losing his stuff.
“I think it was fatigue,” Hurdle said. “I think it was a guy experiencing something he hadn't experienced, so he was going to try to overpower things. Nothing really worked effectively.”
Kuhl's next start was skipped, which gave him extra time to rest and prepare for the Phillies.
“We encouraged him to just go out and pitch, be the guy that we've seen pitch,” Hurdle said. “Throw strikes. Pound the bottom of the zone. Mix in the slider against some left-handers. Throw some changeups. Mix your pitches up and attack.”
That's exactly what Kuhl did. The right-hander set down the first 12 batters, including three straight strikeouts in the fourth inning.
“I was extremely nervous,” Kuhl said. “I tried to block it out as much as I could and just execute pitches.”
The Pirates built a 3-0 lead against right-hander Jerad Eickhoff (10-14) on solo homers by Jaso, McCutchen and Sean Rodriguez.
Jaso began the game with a blast to right-center that landed in the Phillies bullpen. It was his seventh career leadoff homer.
McCutchen went deep in the fourth, depositing a two-seamer into the left field seats.
Rodriguez opened the fifth with his 14th homer.
Tommy Joseph's leadoff double in the fourth ended Kuhl's flirtation with a no-hitter. Joseph scored on a grounder.
With two outs, Odubel Herrera singled and scored on Aaron Altherr's double to right field.
With their lead whittled to 3-2, the Pirates went back to work on Eickhoff in the seventh. Gregory Polanco led off with a double. With two outs, Francisco Cervelli reached on a high-hop infield single.
Jordy Mercer mashed a full-count slider over the left field wall to put the Pirates up by four.