Pittsburgh Pirates 4, Los Angeles Dodgers 3: Stars And Stiffs

Jun 24, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Chad Kuhl (39) delivers a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 24, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Chad Kuhl (39) delivers a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

On Sunday night, the Pittsburgh Pirates earned arguably their most satisfying victory of the season by defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers by a score of 4-3.

Maybe just maybe the Pittsburgh Pirates are getting back on track. After going 5-17 in their first 22 games in the month of June, the Pittsburgh Pirates have now won three games in a row and can go for a four game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers tomorrow. Sunday night’s game was highlighted by Chad Kuhl‘s Major League debut, and the Pittsburgh Pirates defeating Clayton Kershaw.

The Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Dodger on Sunday night improved the Bucs to 37-39 overall on the season. Furthermore, the win pulled the Pirates to within four games of the Miami Marlins for the final National League postseason spot. Anyway, here are the Pirates three stars and stiffs from Sunday night.


Starting pitcher Chad Kuhl – Right-handed pitcher Chad Kuhl made his Major League debut on Sunday night and more than held his own. Kuhl was pitching on national television, against Clayton Kershaw, and picked up the win in his Major League debut. Kudos to Chad for that.

Kuhl lasted just five innings on Sunday night, but held the Dodgers to three runs on four hits and he struck out five batters. Kuhl also played a big role in the win both at the plate and in the field. In the bottom of the second inning Chad Kuhl came to the plate with the bases loaded and just one out. Kuhl would wind up striking out, but he made Clayton Kershaw throw nine pitches. This helped wear Kershaw out and helped the Pirates strike for four runs in the second.

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Chad Kuhl also was able to lay down a beautiful sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the fourth inning. This sac bunt nearly led to an extra Pirate run, but Joc Pederson and Yasmani Grandal made a perfect play to retire Sean Rodriguez at the plate. In the top of the fifth inning, Kuhl made an excellent play to block the plate on a wild pitch and apply a tag to retire Justin Turner to end the inning.

Much like he had done throughout his Minor League career, Chad Kuhl showed a strong two-seam fastball with some late movement and good sink on it. Kuhl also flashed a plus slider that he used to get two of his five strikeouts. Kuhl also consistently sat in the mid to upper 90s on his fastball all night long. I am really excited to see what Kuhl can do moving forward.

Sunday night will undoubtedly be a night Chad Kuhl will never forget. Kuhl made his Major League debut, on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, he faced Clayton Kershaw, and he got the win. Congrats, Chad!

First baseman David Freese – The Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman had just one hit on Sunday night, but it was the single biggest hit of the game. David Freese came to the plate in the bottom of the second inning with the bases loaded, two outs, and the Pirates leading 1-0. Freese proceeded to drive a Clayton Kershaw pitch into right-center field for a bases clearing double to give the Pittsburgh Pirates a 4-0 lead they would not relinquish.

David Freese continues to be a great signing by Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington. On the season Freese now has a .356 wOBA and a 127 wRC+. It’s unfortunate that all the Pirates’ finders are gone and that they are stuck with a #TeflonGM who is incapable of finding bounce back candidates without them. Oh, wait.

The Pittsburgh Pirates Bullpen – For much of the season, and rightfully so, the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen has been the brunt of a lot of criticism. On Sunday night however, the bullpen was excellent. The Pirate bullpen faced 12 batters, and retired all 12.

Juan Nicasio, A.J. Schugel, and Mark Melancon combined to throw four perfect innings of relief. Juan Nicasio pitched a Juan-two-three sixth inning, A.J. Schugel pitched perfect seventh and eighth innings, and Melancon retired the Dodgers in order in the ninth to cap off the Pirate win. Of the 12 batters these three relievers faced only four were able to even hit the ball out of the infield, and they also recorded three strike outs.

Tonight continued A.J. Schugel (3.00 FIP, 7.98 K/9, 1.94 BB/9, 0.70 HR/9) and Mark Melancon’s (1.48 ERA, 2.87 FIP, 2.37 BB/9, 0.30 HR/9) strong seasons. As for Juan Nicasio, this was his first outing after being moved to the bullpen and hopefully was sign of things to come. I have said all along I believe Nicasio would make a very good reliever, and he very much so looked the part tonight.

Right fielder/left fielder Adam Frazier – Tonight’s win was so satisfying the Pirates get an additional fourth star. In just his third career Major League game, Adam Frazier was thrown to the fire and responding extremely well. Frazier entered the game in right field, with Sean Rodriguez moving to shortstop, in the top of the second inning after Jordy Mercer was kneed in the head sliding into second base.

Not only was Frazier thrown into the game after not starting, it was against Clayton Kershaw. Well, Frazier responded by going 2-for-3 at the plate and making a great defensive play in the outfield. In his first at bat Frazier flipped a Kershaw pitch into left field for a run scoring hit to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead. In his second at bat Frazier got a base hit with two outs and Sean Rodriguez on second base, but a perfect play by Joc Pederson and Yasmani Grandal retired Rodriguez at the plate. Frazier also made a great diving catch while running in from right field for the second out of the top of the seventh inning.


Center fielder Andrew McCutchen – After hitting two home runs in Saturday’s Pirate victory, Andrew McCutchen was back to struggling on Sunday night. McCutchen went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts on Sunday night. McCutchen also was ejected from the game for arguing balls and strikes in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Now, in McCutchen’s defense, in the at bat that led to his ejection home plate umpire Chris Conroy was abysmal. Neither the called second strike nor the called third strike to McCutchen were anywhere near strikes. So, I did not blame him one iota for being upset.

Third baseman Jung Ho Kang – Pittsburgh Pirates slugging third baseman Jung Ho Kang was held off the stat sheet on Sunday night. Kang went 0-for-4 at the plate with a strikeout. This was an uncharacteristically bad night for Kang, and I expect him to bounce back tomorrow afternoon.

Next: Sabermetric Sunday: WAR

That will do it for this game. Sunday night’s victory for the Pittsburgh Pirates was, in my opinion, the most satisfying of the season. So satisfying in fact that the team had just two stiffs and an addition fourth star.

The Pittsburgh Pirates sent Chad Kuhl to the mound for his Major League debut, the team had scuffled all month, and they were opposed by Clayton Kershaw who is having arguably the greatest season ever by a starting pitcher. Well, the Pirates pulled out a win in front of their home crowd on the national spotlight. This team is not dead yet, the Bucs will go for a series sweep tomorrow afternoon when Francisco Liriano opposes Scott Kazmir.