PITTSBURGH (AP) — Andrew McCutchen hit his 23rd home run of the season and the surging Pittsburgh Pirates downed the reeling Detroit Tigers 6-3 on Tuesday.
Chad Kuhl (5-7) took a shutout into the sixth and allowed three runs and five hits to win his second straight start. Kuhl, who pitched six innings, had the first two RBIs of his big league career on a two-run single in the fourth off Matthew Boyd (5-6).
McCutchen took Boyd to the seats in center field leading off the fourth for his franchise-record 13th interleague home run. David Freese added two hits for the Pirates, who have won three straight and five of six to pull within a game of .500 (56-57). Felipe Rivero worked a perfect ninth for his 10th save.
Jim Adduci hit an RBI double for the Tigers and Mikie Mahtook had two of Detroit’s five hits. Boyd lasted just four-plus innings, losing for the first time since his recall from Triple-A Toledo at the All-Star break. Detroit has lost four straight games, its fifth skid of at least four games this season.
While the Tigers are fading, the Pirates continue to stay within striking distance in the NL Central thanks to steady improvement from the back end of the rotation. A night after Trevor Williams gave up one hit in seven innings, Kuhl appeared ready to match him.
His fastball reaching 99 mph, Kuhl overpowered the Tigers for the first five innings, surrendering only a pair of singles to Mahtook and a walk. Though Kuhl faltered in the sixth, by then he was working with a six-run lead. Kuhl improved to 4-1 in his last 10 starts and his ERA, which peaked at 6.69 after he got rocked by Washington on May 16, is 4.53.
Kuhl even found a little magic with the bat. He entered 3 for 54 (.056) at the plate in his major league career but found a way to break the game open in the fourth. McCutchen’s shot to start the fourth put Pittsburgh up 2-0. Kuhl stepped in with the bases loaded and two outs. He flailed wildly at Boyd’s first pitch but regrouped to send Boyd’s next offering into left – just over the outstretched glove of Detroit shortstop Andrew Romine – to push the Pirate lead to 4-0.
Boyd, unbeaten since returning from a five-week stay at Triple-A following a bumpy two months in the rotation, left following Freese’s RBI single three batters into the fifth. Boyd struck out five and issued one walk, his ERA rising to 5.64.
Adducci’s double in the sixth was also Detroit’s last hit of the night. Three Pirate relievers retired the Tigers in order over the last three innings. Rivero, who blew a save on Sunday in an eventual 12-inning victory over San Diego, needed just 12 pitches to breeze through the ninth as Pittsburgh moved to an NL-best 64-47 against the American League since 2012.
Tigers: RHP Michael Fulmer (right elbow inflammation) will meet with team doctors on Wednesday to have the elbow re-examined. Manager Brad Ausmus said the 2016 AL Rookie of the Year, who was put on the 10-day disabled list retroactive to Aug. 1, hasn’t had any setbacks and that Fulmer feels “fine.”
Tigers: Justin Verlander (7-7, 4.20 ERA), coming on the 40th double-digit strikeout game of his career, gets the start on Wednesday as the interleague series shifts to Detroit.
Pirates: Ivan Nova (10-8, 3.66), winless in his last three starts, starts for the Pirates as they look to draw back to .500.
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