Pirates fall to Dodgers, 6-2
Pirates outfielder Brandon Moss reacts after striking out during the fourth inning of last night's road game against the Dodgers.
Pirates pitcher Daniel McCutchen pitches during the first inning.
Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit tags out Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp at home on a double by outfielder Manny Ramirez.
Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, right, steals second as Pirates shortstop Ronny Cedeno, left, is unable to hold on to the ball during the fifth inning.
Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp catches a ball hit by Pirates outfielder Lastings Milledge for a out during the fourth inning.
Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier celebrates his two-run home run with teammate Matt Kemp at home plate during the fifth inning.
Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier watches his two-run home run during the fifth inning.
Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez grounds out to third during the fifth inning.
Dodgers relief pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo delivers during the seventh inning.
Dodgers pitcher Jon Garland pitches during the first inning.
Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake reacts after being hit by a pitch during the fourth inning.
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LOS ANGELES -- Three times in the opening five innings, the Pirates had two men on base and one out. Twice, they had two on and none out.
Once, they scored.
And that came on a meek groundout where Ryan Doumit stuck out his bat on a hit-and-run play, plating Andy LaRoche for a tying run in what quickly became a 6-2 loss to Los Angeles before 42,045 at Dodger Stadium this morning.
• Game: Pirates vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, 10:10 p.m., Dodger Stadium.
• TV, radio: MLB Network, WPGB-FM (104.7).
• Pitching: LHP Zach Duke (10-14, 4.02) vs. LHP Clayton Kershaw (8-8, 2.89).
• Key matchup: Never mind the opponent, Duke needs to get straightened out after three consecutive losses in which he has allowed 18 runs -- and five home runs -- over 13 innings.
• Of note: The Pirates' pitchers have recorded 12 caught-stealings, tied for the National League lead with the Philadelphia Phillies. They also have six pickoffs.
While the cellar-dwelling Pirates failed to bring in a runner in scoring position, the National League West-leading Dodgers got home three -- the difference in the game and, by extraction, the standings.
"It is important to understand what these guys are going through, at some point we're going to be in that same situation," Pirates manager said beforehand, wanting his young players to learn and compete in seven Dodgers contests over their next 14. "They're meaningful games. We're trying to get our guys to rise to that occasion. Don't want to be a doormat for these guys to walk into the playoffs."
There is ample reason why the Pirates have wandered to a 2-15 record of late and 17-37 since the All-Star break, and it starts inside the batter's box. They have collected the second-lowest batting average and both the fewest RBIs and runs scored in the majors since the midsummer classic. They entered last night with the second-fewest total bases in the majors all season, which goes to show they don't often put men on base, but they do leave them there somewhat regularly.
"We all need to get better, even me," Andrew McCutchen said. "We just need to get those runs. We need them. The easy ones, less than two outs and men on base. We were in this ballgame."
Only five big-league teams have produced fewer runs than the Pirates with runners in scoring position in 2009, and this loss was a prime example. Andrew McCutchen and LaRoche opened each the first and third innings by reaching safely with no out. A Doumit walk in the first loaded the bases with just one out. The other five at-bats in those innings produced six outs, including an inning-ending double play in the third.
Doumit's run-producing groundout in the fifth started a run where the final 14 Pirates went down in order.
No wonder the Pirates to date have accumulated almost as many double plays (47) as extra-base hits (48) with runners in scoring position and less than two out. No wonder they have accumulated almost as many double plays (14) as hits, period (15), in bases-loaded situations with less than two out this season.
In his third Pirates start, rookie Daniel McCutchen (0-2) pitched well enough, yielding two runs through the first five innings, then a two-run homer to Andre Ethier in the fifth. That proved to be the difference maker.
"My changeup's usually my go-to pitch, and it was bad tonight," Daniel McCutchen said. "In front of this crowd, this atmosphere, I really would've liked to come out with my good stuff. But it just wasn't one of those days. That hanging, 1-0 changeup in the last inning [to Ethier] really hurt me. To never pitch in an atmosphere like this. I just wish. . . , I'll work harder to be able to come out with my better stuff next time." He added of the other McCutchen's splendid catches on hits by Rafael Furcal and Manny Ramirez: "It's great to have McCutchen out there. Things definitely could've been worse. He made two great catches: one over the back, one running in. And then the great relay in the first, getting the guy at the plate when we really needed an out."
In their past four games, the Pirates have scored two runs or fewer; they are 4-48 in such games this season.
The Pirates need to go at least 8-12 the rest of the way to avoid a 100-loss season.
First Published September 15, 2009 1:40 am