PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates waited three hours and 18 minutes for a hit Friday night, swinging through three hitless innings then sitting through a lengthy rain delay. But the Bucs forced the Brewers to wait all night for a run, as five Pittsburgh pitchers combined to shut out Milwaukee, 4-0, at PNC Park.
Right-hander Chad Kuhl started the game and pitched three innings before rain washed everyone off the field. It was a frustrating turn of events for Kuhl, whose last start was cut short after he was hit in the right knee by a hard ground ball, but left-hander Wade LeBlanc eased the sting. When play resumed two hours and 27 minutes later, the veteran LeBlanc struck out four over three innings. Both Kuhl and LeBlanc allowed two hits and didn't walk a batter.
"He can definitely play off hitters' adrenaline. He can use that against them," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of LeBlanc. "He can also beat you with a fastball at 86, 87 mph, because he can throttle you down with a changeup, a cutter and some other options."
Held hitless by Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson in the first three innings, the Pirates rallied for three runs in the fourth. Josh Bell doubled and scored on Gregory Polanco's single to center field, just the fifth RBI of the season for Pittsburgh's cleanup man. An error by Brewers first baseman Eric Thames allowed Polanco to score, and LeBlanc chipped in with an RBI single.
"I wasn't ready to get to anything besides a fastball, so put a swing on it, close your eyes," LeBlanc said of his run-scoring hit. "Hopefully it finds some grass."
Bell launched a homer into the Allegheny River in the fifth to give the Pirates a four-run lead. The Brewers threatened in the seventh inning, loading the bases against reliever Juan Nicasio. But Hurdle called upon lefty Felipe Rivero, and Jonathan Villar grounded into an inning-ending forceout. Rivero pitched a clean eighth, and Daniel Hudson sealed the win in the ninth.
"They pitched well. LeBlanc came in, and he did a nice job," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "He kept us off balance. His changeup and cutter were very good, and the rest of their bullpen did a nice job."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Pitch and hit: On April 10, LeBlanc batted twice with the bases loaded and struck out twice. The veteran left-hander got another shot in the fourth, coming to the plate with two outs and the bases full of Pirates. He delivered a line-drive single to the opposite field, scoring Francisco Cervelli from third base. Jose Osuna was thrown out at home to end the inning, but not before LeBlanc recorded his first hit since May 1, 2013, and his first RBI since Aug. 31, 2011.
"It just goes to show you that a swinging bat's a dangerous bat," Hurdle said. "I've always said that, and it'll always ring true."
Ring it to the river: Bell joined rare company with his fifth-inning solo shot off reliever Rob Scahill, a former Pirate. The switch-hitting first baseman's homer was the 41st to reach the Allegheny in PNC Park history. His fifth homer traveled a projected 400 feet, per Statcast™, with an exit velocity of 102.9 mph, bounced off the concourse in right-center field and rolled into the river. The last player to reach the river was Matt Adams (Sept. 6), and the last Pirate to do so was Polanco (May 1, 2016). Bell is the 28th different player to swat a ball into the river.
"It found its way into the river. It's not the big fly that I'd hope for," Bell said. "Maybe another time I'll make it in the air. We'll see. Or one bounce, not eight." More >
"Doesn't that make me feel and look old? He wasn't even married when he was at my game. At least I won the game, so … I guess there's some good karma. I need him to keep talking bad about me." -- LeBlanc, on teammate Trevor Williams' rain-delay tweet about him
"A little frustrating, but that's the game of baseball. I feel good. I'm going to be out there in five [days]. Hopefully Mother Nature cooperates then." -- Kuhl, on having consecutive starts cut short after a rough outing against the Cubs
WHAT'S NEXT Brewers: Right-hander Matt Garza will toe the rubber for the Brewers in game two of the three-game series at 6:05 p.m. CT on Saturday at PNC Park. Garza will make his third start of the season and is 3-6 with a 4.43 ERA in 13 career starts against the Pirates.
Pirates:Gerrit Cole will make his seventh start of the season, as the Pirates host the Brewers at 7:05 p.m. ET. Cole did not face the Brewers last season, and the only three active Brewers he's faced are outfielders Ryan Braun and Domingo Santana and Garza. Cole has made five straight quality starts, but he has received one or no runs of support in three of his six outings.