PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Pirates might start to consider Chad Kuhl their good-luck charm, except that would do a disservice to what the rookie right-hander has done this season.
Kuhl has yet to lose in the big leagues, going 3-0 with a 3.73 ERA, but it gets even better. The Pirates have won each of Kuhl's six starts.
That's the club's longest win streak with a rookie starter since it won Jim Nelson's first seven starts in 1970.
Kuhl can match that Saturday when Pittsburgh takes on the Miami Marlins in the middle game of a weekend series at PNC Park.
“I'm staying true to what I do best,” Kuhl told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Sunday after an 11-3 win at Dodger Stadium, his fourth quality start in six outings. “I'm not going to strike out 13. I'm going to try to get the ball on the ground and get quality starts.”
He allowed two runs and six hits in six innings in Los Angeles, with five strikeouts and no walks. He has given up four runs in his past three starts, a total of 18 innings.
Pittsburgh's Sean Rodriguez said part of what makes Kuhl effective is, in a way, living up to his name.
“He's got that cool demeanor, but at the same time (he's) fiery — 'I'm competitive, but I'm not scared,'” Rodriguez told the Post-Gazette. “That's essentially what it takes to play up here.”
Kuhl will face Miami for the first time.
The Marlins are banking on some momentum from Friday's comeback 6-5 win in the series opener that halted a three-game losing streak as they went 1-3 in Cincinnati.
The win also pulled Miami to within a half-game of Pittsburgh as the two clubs push for a wild-card spot.
“We kind of reeled a little bit in Cincinnati,” Miami manager Don Mattingly said. “Anytime you get a win now, it's big and it gives you momentum, at least until the next day. It's important for our guys to be in this situation, where they're playing important games at this time of year. We have a lot of guys who haven't been through it before.”
The Marlins are scheduled to counter with David Phelps (6-6, 2.48 ERA).
Phelps was in the bullpen all season until early this month, when the Marlins moved him to the rotation. In three starts since then, he is 1-1 and has allowed three earned runs and 12 hits in 14 2/3 innings with five walks and 17 strikeouts.
Although it was expected that he would take a few mph off his pitches, Phelps rejected that idea.
“I don't see why I would change the way that I'm pitching. I've had success throwing the way I'm throwing now,” Phelps told the South Florida Sun Sentinel at the time of the change. “The biggest thing is keep runs off the board, right? I'll go up there and try to get guys out.”
The move certainly was not based on shaky performances out of the bullpen. He had a 2.65 ERA.
While he had pitched in relief exclusively this season before the move, Phelps has started in the past.
“He's done it before, and it's never really like he couldn't do it,” Mattingly told the Sun Sentinel “Innings-wise, we feel like we're in a comfortable spot. And he's also been healthy all year long. He hasn't had any issues with his arm.”