Three thoughts on the Pirates:
- Kuhl keeps cool
Chad Kuhl was talking a couple of weeks ago about motivates him.
“Winning,” the right-hander said. “I don’t care about stats. I don’t care about my ERA. All I care is that the team wins, whether I give up six runs in five innings or pitching seven shutout innings. Winning is what matters.”
Kuhl has only one win to his name through nine starts this season. However, the 24-year-old showed some very positive signs Sunday.
While he did not factor in the decision, Kuhl pitched five innings and allowed only one hit while combing with four relievers on a three-hit shutout as the Pirates edged the Philadelphia Phillies 1-0 at PNC Park.
He had been tagged for six runs in four innings in losing his previous start five days earlier against the Washington Nationals.
The problem with Kuhl has been ramping too much velocity on his fastball. He is at his best when he takes a little off the heater, which gives it sinking action and makes it very difficult for hitters to square up.
Kuhl, for the most part, did that last season when he lived up to his surname as a rookie. He displayed plenty of cool while going 5-4 with a 4.20 ERA in 14 starts, including getting a win over Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw in his debut on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.
This season, Kuhl is just 1-4 with a 5.85 ERA after nine starts. The Pirates need him to pitch like he did Sunday, especially since he is the de facto No. 3 starter behind Gerrit Cole and Ivan Nova while Jameson Taillon recovers from testicular cancer surgery.
“I think I’ve let my competitiveness get the better of me at times this year,” Kuhl said. “I know I have to take a step back at times, take a deep breath.”
He did that Sunday and that made the outing so encouraging.
- Nova the pacesetter
Commissioner Rob Manfred keeps pushing for pace of play initiatives yet major league games keep getting longer.
One way to speed up games would be for other pitchers to take a cue from Nova. He works quickly and throws strikes.
“We love playing behind him,” Pirates third baseman David Freese said.
How could the Pirates not? Nova keep things moving in an era when a game that finishes under three hours is essentially a gift.
Nova wasn’t especially sharp on Saturday in beating the Phillies as he gave up three runs and nine hits in 6 1/3 innings. However, did not allow any walks and went to a three-ball count on just two of the 30 batters he faced.
The result was a time of game of just two hours, 52 minutes.
- Welcome sight
The best part of the Pirates’ 4-2 homestand that ended Sunday was Taillon regaining enough strength since his May 8 surgery to watch the games from the dugout and cheer his teammates.
“Being around these guys is the best thing I could have,” Taillon said. “They’re all so supportive. A lot of us came through the farm system together and experienced a lot. It’s like having brothers, actually family, here support me.”