Thursday night the Pittsburgh Pirates rode a strong start from Chad Kuhl and the long ball to a victory over the St. Louis Cardinals
Despite dropping the second game of their brief two-game series against the Chicago White Sox, the Pittsburgh Pirates still entered St. Louis playing some strong baseball. Entering play on Thursday night the Pirates were 3-2 in their last five games played.
The Pittsburgh Pirates were able to keep the good vibes rolling by defeating the St. Louis Cardinals 8-2 in the first game of a four-game weekend series at Busch Stadium. With the win, the Pirates improve to 27-46 on the season.
Pittsburgh Pirates jump out to an early lead
It did not take the Pirates long to take the lead on Thursday night.
To start the top of the 1st inning Adam Frazier walked, Ke’Bryan Hayes singled and Bryan Reynolds singled. This made the score 1-0 Pirates and put runners on the corners with no one out. Colin Moran then grounded, scoring Hayes and making the score 2-0 Pirates.
When an offense struggles the way the Pirate offense has for much of the season an early lead is always a great feeling. This early lead set the tone for the night. It also helped Chad Kuhl settle in early and get into a groove.
Strong start by Chad Kuhl helps set the tone
Since returning from the injured list Kuhl has been a different pitcher than he was before being place on the IL. Thursday night, Kuhl continued his post-IL stint resurgence with arguably his strongest start of the season.
After being handed a 2-0 lead Kuhl posted a 0 in the bottom of the 1st inning. This helped to continue to set the tone for the night for the Pittsburgh Pirates and was the start of a strong night for Kuhl.
Kuhl pitched 6 strong on Thursday night, allowed just 1 run on 3 hits, 3 walks and 2 strikeouts. He kept the ball on the ground with a 68.8% ground ball rate for the night and threw 58% of his pitches for strikes.
This was the second consecutive start in which Kuhl went 6 innings and allowed just 1 run. It also gives him four strong starts out of five since returning from the IL. Kuhl now owns a 4.30 ERA in 25.1 innings pitched since returning from the IL. In these 25.1 innings of work Kuhl has allowed just 1 home run to go with an encoring 8.6% walk rate.
Home runs carry the Pirate offense
While many people may peg Frazier as the most likely Pirate All-Star there is an even stronger case to be made fo Reynolds. Hell, you would be hard pressed to find three outfielders more deserving than Reynolds to start for the National League in next’s months Mid-Summer Classic.
The strong start to the season for Reynolds continued in the 8-2 victory as he went 3-for-4 with a walk, 4 RBI and his 13th home run of the season. The home run Reynolds hit was a 3-run blast in the 4th inning that extended the Pirate lead to 5-1 and started to put the game away for the Bucs.
The 3-run bomb from Reynolds was one of a trio of home runs on the night for the Pirates. Adam Frazier hit a solo home run in the 6th inning that made the score 6-1 Pirates, the score then grew to 7-1 when Phillip Evans hit a pinch-hit home run in the 8th inning.
David Bednar slams the door shut
With the Pirates leading 8-1 Derek Shelton handed Geoff Hartlieb the ball in the bottom of the 8th inning. Hartlieb faced six batters, allowing a hit, he walked a pair and he hit a batter. The second of his two walks came with the bases loaded to bring in a run, cutting the lead to 8-2.
At this point Shelton went to the bullpen and summoned David Bednar. The Pittsburgh native got Yadier Molina to line out to end the 8th inning before retiring the Cardinals in order in the 9th. Bednar faced four Cardinal hitters, retiring all four while recording a strikeout. This continues the strong start to his Pirate career as he now owns a 3.54 ERA, 3.69 FIP, 7.1% walk rate and a 32.7% strikeout rate on the season.
Game two of the four-game set will see righty Wil Crowe (6.42 ERA, 5.79 FIP) take the mound for the Pirates. Lefty Kwang Hyun Kim (3.60 ERA, 4.16 FIP) is scheduled to start for the Cardinals. First pitch from Busch Stadium is scheduled for 8:15 PM ET.