Labor day’s series opener against the Cubs at PNC Park, was all about Chad Kuhl early on. Cubs Ace Jake Arrieta was on the mound, with the best ERA in baseball for the second half of the season. That did not mean anything to Josh Bell though, as he hit a one strike slider into the right field seats to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead with two outs in the first inning. Jake Arrieta would pitch a scoreless inning in the second, but leading off the second inning, he threw a first pitch fastball down the middle to Pirates rookie second basemen Max Moroff. Moroff would hit the ball over the right field bleacher seats onto the river walk in the back portion of the stadium to extend the Pirates lead to 3-0. Arrieta would strike out Andrew McCutchen for the first out of the third inning, but would leave the game after sustaining an injury while throwing a first pitch up and in to Pirates cleanup hitter Bell. While the Pirates had all the runs they would need to win the game at that point, they would add on later in a big way following Arrieta’s departure from the ball game.
Chad Kuhl pitched around a two out double by Kris Bryant in the first inning, by recording his first two strikeouts of the day, on a day where he would register a new career high in strikeouts. Kuhl got into some trouble in the second inning after allowing the first two men to reach. After getting line drive out off the bat of Jason Heyward, Mike Freeman singled to left for the Cubs. Starling Marte picked up the ball after the bloop landed in front of him, and he fired a strike to the plate to cut down Ben Zobrist. Kuhl got Arrieta swinging to the end the inning. This would be the only inning where Kuhl would struggle, as he only allowed one more hit and one more walk the rest of the way. Despite losing the feel for his command to start the second inning, Kuhl would pitch efficiently throughout the rest of his outing on the way to seven scoreless innings. Hitting spots consistently from the third inning on, Kuhl finished the day with seven innings pitched, four hits allowed, two walks to go along with his eight strikeouts. The Cubs would threaten to score against both AJ Schugel and Dovydas Neverauskas in the eighth and ninth innings, but they would not push a run across.
The home runs by Bell and Moroff in the first three innings, were just the beginning of what would be a huge day for the four rookie position players in the lineup for the Pirates. After drawing a walk in his first plate appearance, Jordan Luplow would double to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning and the Pirates would add to their lead when Elias Diaz drove him in. This came after an RBI double by Max Moroff in the bottom of the seventh inning, and Max Moroff was not done yet. Moroff would bat with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the eighth, and single up the middle to drive in his third and fourth runs of the day. Josh Bell added his fourth RBI of the day with a ground out to first in the inning, once outfielder Leonys Martin took the mound for the Cubs. As the tenth man to bat in the inning, Luplow would add his second hit of the day with a line drive single into center field off of Martin. This all led to the Pirates piling on, running the score to 12-0 before the bottom of the eighth concluded.
On a day where the news surfaced that the Pirates had given manager Clint Hurdle a four year contract extension, the future of his ball club came through for him in a big way. The win improved the Pirates to 66-72 on the season, while the loss dropped the Cubs to 75-62 on the season. Tune in tomorrow night as Stephen Brault takes the mound to become just the seventh pitcher to make a start for the Pirates this season, as he takes on Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs.