In his previous start against the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Chad Kuhl didn’t make it past the fifth inning, and, Monday night, Kuhl struggled again against the Cubs.
Kuhl (5-4) made a mess of the fourth inning and was unable to see it through, and Chicago won its 100th game of the season with a 12-2 victory.
This season, the Cubs are now 13-3 against the Pirates, while the Pirates fall to 37-41 at PNC Park and 32-38 against the National League Central.
Frustration was a frequent emotion during Kuhl’s start. In the first inning with the bases loaded and just one out, he minimized the damage to a Jason Heyward sacrifice fly.
Kuhl wouldn’t be so lucky in the fourth inning.
Once again, the Cubs loaded the bases. This time, there were no outs when the team’s eighth hitter Javier Baez went down 0-2 in the count.
Kuhl missed his location, and Baez made him pay, hitting a grand slam (his 14th home run of the season) over the left field wall.
Things went from bad to worse for Kuhl when he allowed a single to mound opponent Kyle Hendricks (16-8), which prompted a visit from pitching coach Ray Searage. What followed were two more singles from Chris Coghlan and Kris Bryant.
Manager Clint Hurdle finally saw enough and pulled Kuhl.
Reliever Zach Phillips then came in and struck out Anthony Rizzo and got Willson Contreras to ground into an inning-ending double play.
After Phillips also pitched the sixth, recording a 1-2-3 frame, Steven Brault entered the game in his first Major League relief appearance. Brault had his start skipped Sunday with Tyler Glasnow starting in his place.
Brault ended up on the hook for a six-run Cubs sixth inning and an additional run in the seventh. He was charged with three of those runs. Bryant led off the sixth inning with his 39th home run of the season, a two-run blast, and then Rizzo, Contreras and Heyward all reached base before the first out came.
Albert Almora Jr and Baez each also batted in runs in the sixth. A Jung Ho Kang error allowed Munenori Kawaski to reach on a fielding error that scored Tommy La Stella.
The Pirates have been shut out four times since August 30. Had Matt Joyce and David Freese not hit back-to-back home runs off Cubs reliever Hector Rondon, Monday night would have made it a fifth time.
Now, the Pirates are 77-79 on the season, putting them five games back of a NL Wild Card spot with six games to play. The Pirates will have to win each of these next three games against the Cubs as well as all of the weekend road series against the St. Louis Cardinals — while also hoping those Cardinals, the San Francisco Giants and the New York Mets, who are all in front of Pittsburgh in the Wild Card race, all falter.
Ryan Vogelsong (3-6, 4.85 ERA) may be pitching with the Pirates’ season on the line as he faces Chicago’s John Lackey (10-8, 3.39 ERA). Vogelsong is 5-8 with a 5.82 ERA in 21 career appearances (13 starts) against the Cubs.
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