LOS ANGELES — It was a long walk from the mound to the dugout for Brandon Cumpton Saturday night.
Cumpton was lit up in his fourth start of the season for the Pirates, lasting just 3 2⁄3 innings after giving up 11 hits and 11 runs (10 earned) to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Pirates tacked on runs in the fourth and sixth, but lost, 12-2, and will take a 2-1 series lead into today’s finale.
“The total fastball command wasn’t close to what we’d seen from him in the past and that sets up everything else,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “This game will grab you. And it grabbed him. First-pitch strikes were good, the hitters he did retire was efficient. But a lot of drawn out balls that ended up in the middle of the plate and got elevated in the fourth. Hard day for him.”
Heading into the game, Cumpton carried an 0-1 record and 3.38 ERA after three fairly strong starts in two separate recalls from Class AAA Indianapolis.
He appeared on the cusp of seizing the No. 5 spot in the rotation in a more permanent way.
General manager Neal Huntington said before the game the club was still looking for him to push through a lineup three times, pitch deeper into games and prove his ability on a consistent basis.
“Young starters have the challenge of becoming experienced starters,” Huntington said. “The only way to do it is to actually go pitch well, gain that experience. In our minds he has all the ability in the world to do that. Today may be that day.”
But Saturday was not that day.
He struggled locating his fastball, leaving many up and ripe to be driven by a deep Dodgers lineup.
“My heater, if it’s up and I’m falling behind, I’m going to have to pay,” Cumpton said. “Walked the two guys [in the first] and feel like when I did make a pitch it found a hole and when I didn’t make a pitch it found a gap. Felt like I couldn’t get a break and started falling behind guys. They were sitting on heaters and doing what they get paid to do.”
Cumpton gave up two singles and two walks in the first inning, resulting in two runs.
The Dodgers scored four in the third off an error, four hits and a sacrifice fly to take a 6-0 lead.
An Andre Ethier fly ball took Starling Marte to the warning track and Marte caught the ball initially, but dropped it after slamming off the left-field wall.
Ethier took second and scored on a single by Hanley Ramirez two batters later.
Adrian Gonzalez doubled in Yasiel Puig, Ramirez scored on a sacrifice fly by Matt Kemp and Justin Turner singled in Gonzalez.
The Pirates got on the board in the fourth when Jordy Mercer doubled in Jose Tabata, but the Dodgers scored five more in the fourth, including a two-run home run by Ramirez.
Hurdle said he kept Cumpton in so he could battle a bit.
“It wasn’t about protection, it was about pitching,” Hurdle said. “About him trying to find a way and getting some things done and having to deal on the other side of it for probably the first time up here.”
Drew Butera tripled off reliever Jeanmar Gomez to score runs No. 10 and 11, but they were charged to Cumpton.
Ramirez homered again in the sixth on the first pitch thrown by reliever Bryan Morris to make it 12-2.
Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu went six innings and held the Pirates to two runs on 10 hits. He struck out four. Ryu was just the sixth left-handed starter the Pirates have faced this season.
The Pirates will send Edinson Volquez to the mound tonight to close out the series.
Volquez is 2-4 with a 4.30 ERA this season and is 2-3 lifetime against the Dodgers with a 3.86 ERA in seven starts.
The game will be aired on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball.”
It is the second time in less than a month the Pirates will be aired on Sunday night on ESPN after a hiatus of more than 10 years (May of 2002).
Jenn Menendez: email@example.com and Twitter @JennMenendez.
First Published May 31, 2014 10:28 PM