The hits came in bunches. At first, they did little harm, partly because they were all singles, but they still made an impact. When the Los Angeles Dodgers finally broke out the extra-base hits, they extended their lead in a close game and extended the Pirates' stretch of trouble.
The Pirates lost, 9-3, to the Dodgers at PNC Park Wednesday night after a so-so outing from Wandy Rodriguez and a dominating one from Clayton Kershaw. They have now lost six of seven games and seven of their past nine.
The Pirates also lost Neil Walker, who left the game in the first inning because of a dislocated finger on his right hand. Walker had been one of the Pirate's best offensive performers since the beginning of July as well as a mainstay at second base in almost every game.
Rodriguez's outing was the latest in a series of mediocre pitching performances that have contributed to the Pirates' recent struggles. The Pirates entered the game with a 4.49 second-half ERA, a run above their ERA in the first half. Their ERA in August, where they were 5-8 entering the game, was 4.93, their highest of any month of the season and a run higher than their July Mark. They have allowed at least five runs in each of their past nine games.
Rodriguez allowed five runs on 10 hits in 52/3 innings. The first eight hits he allowed were singles, but consecutive doubles in the fourth allowed three runs to score.
Kershaw allowed three runs on six hits in eight innings, striking out eight.
Walker was injured in a busy first inning. Shane Victorino poked a ball down the third-base line that Josh Harrison bare-handed. His throw on the run went over Gaby Sanchez at first base and allowed Victorino to reach second. Mark Ellis singled, putting men on first and third.
Matt Kemp hit a broken-bat grounder up the middle that Walker fielded. He sprinted to second base in an attempt to tag the bag and turn a double play, and Walker tumbled forward over Ellis after throwing to first. Walker braced his fall with his right arm and stayed on the ground in obvious pain, shaking his right hand as he rolled.
Manager Clint Hurdle and the entire defense huddled around him at second base, and he eventually walked off the field with a trainer holding his right arm.
Walker is as durable a player as they come. He played in 159 games last season and appeared in 114 of the Pirates' 117 games this year.
Walker also represented a large part of the Pirates' offense in the past month. He is hitting .290 with 14 home runs, and since July 1 was hitting .333 with 10 home runs.
Josh Harrison moved to second base and Pedro Alvarez took over at third. The Pirates are already operating while short one bench player due to the temporary six-man rotation.
The play allowed Victorino to score and the Dodgers took a 1-0 lead.
The Pirates tied the game in the second on Garrett Jones' sacrifice fly. Gaby Sanchez doubled, went to third on Michael McKenry's fly ball and scored when Andre Ethier caught Jones' sac fly at the warning track in right-center field.
The Dodgers got another run in the third after two singles and a walk loaded the bases with one out. Juan Rivera's sacrifice fly scored Mark Ellis and the Dodgers took a 2-1 lead.
After singles from Kershaw and Victorino in the fourth, Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez hit back-to-back doubles to score three runs and take a 5-1 lead.
Andrew McCutchen powered an outside slider into the center-field shrubbery in the fourth, cutting the Dodgers' lead to 5-2. McCutchen hit his 24th home run of the season, a new career high.
Chris Resop took over in the sixth and allowed four runs on four hits in the seventh. Resop was the second Pirate reliever in as many nights to allow four runs in an inning after Chad Qualls did so Tuesday.
Members of the Pirates staff visited Juan Cruz on the mound in the eighth after he appeared to experience some discomfort, but he stayed in the game and finished the inning.