BRADENTON -- You won't find Chad Kuhl listed among the top prospects in baseball. And his name rarely comes up when discussing the potential packed into the Pittsburgh Pirates' rich farm system.
That may change, however, especially if Kuhl's last two starts serve as a harbinger of what is to come.
Kuhl spun seven efficient innings Tuesday night to help the Bradenton Marauders beat the St. Lucie Mets 11-5 in front of 1,085 fans at McKechnie Field, snapping the Mets' eight-game winning streak while limiting the best-hitting team in the Florida State League to just two hits.
Kuhl became the first Marauder this season to throw 100 innings -- he is at 103 1/3 -- and his nine wins are tied for tops in the league. It was the second consecutive outing in which Kuhl pitched seven innings while allowing two hits, the other coming against Fort Myers, the South Division champions of the first half and the league's leader in runs scored.
"The wins don't really tell everything," said Kuhl, a Delaware native and the Pirates' ninth-round pick in 2013. "Every time out there, I feel the defense has been incredible and the offense has been there. Just wins in general isn't too big of a stat in general for pitching, but it's been going well. It's all about progressing, honestly. But the wins are nice."
Kuhl pitched into and out of trouble immediately, walking Gilbert Gomez, the first batter of the game, on four pitches and allowing a double to L.J. Mazzilli, an IMG Academy product. Jared King's groundout plated the first run, but Kuhl minimized the damage by striking out Cam Maron and retiring Anderlin Rodriguez on a grounder to second.
Kuhl retired 12 straight at one point and didn't allow another hit until the seventh, when the Mets, down 6-1, loaded the bases with none out but managed to score just one run.
"It's always good to get out of the first," said Kuhl, who walked four, struck out four and has limited hitters to a .198 average in his past 10 starts, a span of 63 innings. "For every pitcher, just getting in a groove is the most important thing."
Bradenton (45-41, 10-7 second half) brandished the bats, totaling 15 hits while scoring at least two runs or more in four innings. Adam Frazier and Walker Gourley had three RBIs apiece, and Jin-De Jhang and Raul Fortunato each had three hits.
"A lot of guys aren't pressing anymore," said designated hitter Jordan Steranka, who scored three runs. "The first half, we were kind of looking for that big hit from somebody instead of just letting the lineup work together. I think that's what we're doing now."
Right fielder Josh Bell made a pair of leaping catches, including one in which he crashed against the wall to rob Mazzilli, and Gourley, Fortunato and Eric Wood all scored twice.
In the middle of hit, however, was Kuhl, who may be pitching himself into more and more conversations.
"When we get out there (when Kuhl is pitching), we know we have a great chance of winning," Steranka said. "He's been there all year with the wins. ... A lot of people don't know, but I think they're going to know about it in a couple of years."