Kuhl wins major league debut as Pirates edge Kershaw, Dodgers
Before he took the mound for his major league debut Sunday, Pirates pitcher Chad Kuhl seemed unfazed by the hype.
“It ought to be fun,” the 23-year-old right-hander said.
National television. Under the lights. Big, noisy crowd at PNC Park. Oh, and three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw was on the mound for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“He’s a pretty mature kid,” Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage said. “But I don’t care how mature you are. If I went out there at (age) 61, I’d still have butterflies.”
Kuhl kept his emotions in check and did a pretty good job against the Dodgers, too.
The Pirates scored four runs in the second inning, then held on for a 4-3 victory.
Kuhl kept his cool, but Andrew McCutchen got hot.
McCutchen was ejected in the seventh inning when he slammed his bat after taking a low pitch for strike three. It was McCutchen’s first career ejection.
“It was a good one, wasn’t it?” McCutchen asked with a wry smile.
The frustrations of his season-long struggles at the plate bubbled over and led to McCutchen’s outburst.
“It wasn’t just those (ball-strike) calls,” McCutchen said. “But I feel like I got taken advantage of in that last at-bat. The bat was taken out of my hands.”
McCutchen pointed his finger and yelled at umpire Chris Conroy, then dropped a trail of equipment on the field as he went to the dugout.
“I’ve let things slide for my whole career,” McCutchen said. “I don’t want to feel like I’m being stepped over or taken advantage of. I had to take matters into my own hands and speak my peace.”
McCutchen did not review video of the questionable calls after the game.
“Don’t need to,” McCutchen said. “I’ve been in this game for seven years. I know what a strike is. (Conroy) said it was down the middle. I said, ‘Yeah, you’re right. It was down, the middle,’ and left it at that.”
Despite a rocky first inning, Kuhl (1-0) hung tough. He worked five innings, gave up three runs and four hits, walked four and struck out five.
“I tried to do my best to take it all in and get used to it as fast as I could,” Kuhl said. “The first inning was a little shaky, but I did my best.”
Kershaw (11-2) was good, but not great. In six innings, the lefty gave up four runs and nine hits. He set a season high with two walks and matched his season low with four strikeouts.
The Pirates don’t plan on sending Kuhl back to the minors. He will get another couple of starts, filling in at least until right-hander Gerrit Cole is ready to come off the disabled list.
Kuhl threw 20 pitches in the first inning, only eight of them for strikes. After getting two outs, Kuhl gave up two walks and a single to Howie Kendrick.
With the bases loaded, Yasiel Puig fouled off a 96 mph fastball before grounding into an inning-ending forceout.
Jordy Mercer singled leading off the bottom of the inning. When David Freese hit a bouncer to third base, Mercer was forced out at second.
As Mercer slid, he was bonked on the side of the head by second baseman Chase Utley’s right knee. Mercer stayed down on one knee for a few moments, then walked off the field slowly with athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk.
“I feel way better now,” said Mercer, who added he passed a concussion test.
Mercer, who’s riding an 11-game hitting streak, did not return. According to the team, he is being treated for head and right-ear discomfort.
Kuhl tossed a 1-2-3 second inning, blowing away the bottom of the Dodgers lineup with 10 pitches. Then it was Kershaw’s turn to look like a rookie.
Josh Harrison and Chris Stewart hit back-to-back singles with one out in the second. Sean Rodriguez walked.
Wait … what?
Over his first 116 innings this year, Kershaw had issued seven walks — a ridiculously low figure that was underscored by his 141 strikeouts in the same span.
With the bases loaded, Kuhl had an eight-pitch at-bat before striking out swinging. The extended battle appeared to irk Kershaw, who got a mound visit from pitching coach Rick Honeycutt before facing rookie Adam Frazier.
Frazier punched a 1-2 pitch into shallow left field for an RBI single.
Freese whipped the next pitch into the gap in right-center field for a three-run double.
The Dodgers punched back in the third. Corey Seager doubled, and Justin Turner homered into the first row of seats in left field.
Seager walked with one out in the fifth and scored when Turner clanged a double off the Clemente Wall.
With two outs and Turner at third, a fastball in the dirt got away from catcher Stewart. Turner broke for the plate with a chance to tie the score.
Stewart tossed the ball to Kuhl, who slapped the tag, tumbled over top of Turner and showed the ball to the umpire. Kuhl pumped his fists three or four times to punctuate the out.
In the dugout, manager Clint Hurdle hugged Kuhl and playfully clapped him on the cheek.
Juan Nicasio replaced Kuhl to start the sixth. It was the first outing since June 16 for Nicasio, who was activated Friday after spending a week on the restricted list.