Sunday, May 21, 2017

Kuhl & Pen Outpitch Nola & Phils 1-0 To Take Series

Chad Kuhl and Aaron Nola traded clean first frames on a drizzly Sunday afternoon. The second was also quiet, with JJ's single the only action.  In the third, the Phils drew a walk and Fraze singles and the fourth was 1-2-3 for both sides; this game is starting out like Cy Young and Big Train Johnson are on the bumps. The Phils made some noise in the fifth with a one-out double and walk, but the 8-9 guys were due and Chad fanned them both. JJ drew a leadoff walk and eventually made it to third, were he died. Chad left after 82 pitches for a two-out, two-on pinch hitter (Jose Osuna flied out), giving up a hit, two walks and fanning five.

Wade - four outs for win #3 (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

Wade LeBlanc put up a sixth inning zippo while the Pirates sputtered their way to a run. Fraze and J-Hay opened with singles to put Pirates on the corners and Josh stole second. An out later, J-Bell was walked intentionally and Freeser took one for the team to force home a run. JJ had a chance to provide some breathing room; instead, he hit into a 4-6-3 DP. The Bucs went into their prevent D with Danny Ortiz to right, Jaso to 1B and J-Bell to the pine. Wade was touched for a one-out knock in the seventh and Juan Nicasio came on to get the last two outs while Pittsburgh was unable to dent Nola as Ortiz's fly was hauled in short of the fence.

Felipe Rivero climbed the hill for the eighth. With two gone Cesar Hernandez reached on an error; Rivero's throw to first was short and JJ couldn't come up with it. Freddy Galvis followed with a foul fest before pushing a ball off the end of his bat past short on the ninth pitch to put a pair aboard. Aaron Altherr got ahead 3-1, but Felipe came back to record his second whiff. Edubray Ramos took the ball and walked Fraze. An out later, he was caught stealing ahead of Cutch's walk. Alen Hanson singled. Luis Garcia came in to face Freeser and won the battle with a comebacker. Tony Watson looked to close it out and did so easily with a whiff, tapper and routine bouncer for save #10; Wade got his third win.

Tony Watson picked up his tenth save (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

It was good to see Cool Chad back in the groove and the bullpen do its thing. It wasn't quite as good to see the offense shoot itself in the foot, but at least for today, one run was all it took. So that's back-to-back-series wins and off to Atlanta for a four-gamer.

  • Fraze had two hits and a walk; JJ had a knock and a walk.
  • In a very good sign, Chad not only had five K in five innings but also got seven of the in-play outs on the ground, a strong pointer that his sinker arrived at the bottom of the zone today instead of the belt.
  • His peripherals may not support the old-school stat line, but Tony Watson has converted 10 of his 11 saves this season and is 25-for-29 in save opportunities since taking over the closer role.
  • The Pirates have won 6-of-8 games and are getting closer to .500 with a 20-24 record a series at a time.
  • There were 24,445 slightly soggy fans in the house today. The game couldn't have ended at a better time; it is quickly followed by a couple of strong showers.  
  • The Pirates aren't the only ones whose nerves are frazzled by the Cubs. Milwaukee had a Saturday doubleheader with them rescheduled after a damp AM, then the rain stopped well before game time. Per Dan Benton's post on Larry Brown Sports, Brew Crew skipper Craig Counsell said "It's the first time for us that we've had players treated for sunburn after a rainout."

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