McCutchen Homer Only Respite as L.A. Completes Sweep 6-2
Don’t let the sunshine and the mountain views fool you. Dodger Stadium continues to be a ravine of terror for the Pirates, but Sunday provided a fresh face to engineer the 6-2 Los Angeles victory and a weekend sweep.
Adrian Gonzalez started to earn the $127 million he will collect the next six seasons after arriving from Boston last August. The first baseman went 3-for-4 with four RBI to complete his destruction of Pirates pitching (7-for-11, 2 doubles, 5 RBI). Gonzalez and the top half of the Dodgers lineup afflicted most of the damage on starter Jeff Locke, as L.A.’s first five hitters went 8-for-13 against the Pittsburgh starter, compared to 0-for-9 for the bottom hitters.
“[Gonzalez] will continually wear you out when you leave the ball in the middle of the plate,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
The Pirates broke free from 18 straight scoreless innings in Los Angeles right away. Andrew McCutchen blasted a fastball up in the zone for Pittsburgh’s first home run in 2013, a two-run blast into the fifth row of the left field pavilion with Starling Marte on base.
At last, a lead, for the first time since Wednesday.
The Dodgers responded immediately to make the Bucs lead evaporate. Nick Punto, Matt Kemp and Gonzalez struck back with three straight hits off starter Jeff Locke, the runs coming when Gonzalez hit a breaking ball for a 2-RBI single that just dribbled underneath a diving Neil Walker to tie the score.
“It felt like the location was great, everything was great,” Locke said about the pitch to Gonzalez. “Just got enough bat on it to sneak it through.”
Dodgers Take Advantage
Small ball gave L.A. the lead in the third inning. Carl Crawford hit a leadoff double to the left field wall, was bunted over by Punto and scored on a Kemp sacrifice fly to deep right field. The advantage the Pirates had built was not for long in front of a sellout crowd of 52,053.
The Dodgers extended their lead to 4-2 in the fifth. Crawford and Punto started the inning with back-to-back singles. Crawford got to third on a double play, then scored on a Gonzalez single to left-center. Starling Marte grabbed it, turned and gunned down Gonzalez with a smooth throw to second to limit the damage.
Jeff Locke pitched six innings in his season debut, getting knocked around for eight hits and four runs, while racking up only three strikeouts as part of the Pirates dropping to a 1-5 record. He was yet another victim to the Bucs’ struggles in “Loss Angeles,” where they are 7-31 in their last 38 games. Hurdle called it a “learning day” for the young lefty, and both agreed that mixing pitches and fastball command are aspects to work on.
“I’m somebody that has always commanded the fastball pretty well, in my opinion. It’s something I need to do better at the Big League level,” Locke said. “It’s not something I can’t fix.”
Bucs Can’t Build on Early Lead
L.A. starter Hyun-Jin Ryu kept the Pirates from getting any runners into scoring position after the first inning. The Korean lefty ended up with six strikeouts and only three hits allowed in 6.1 innings for the first win of his MLB career. Ryu made adjustments and effectively utilized his curveball and cutter to retire 13 of his last 14 hitters.
“He just made a couple mistakes up and out over the first five hitters,” Pirates hitting coach Jay Bell said. “After that, he commanded his changeup pretty well.”
The last real opportunity for the Pirates came in the 7th inning when they were still down just two runs. Jose Tabata, the first batter after Ryu checked out, singled and reached second base on Punto’s throwing error. But reliever Ronald Belisario killed any chances with his next two pitches to Pirates pinch-hitters: Garrett Jones flew out and Travis Snider grounded to second.
“It got away from us after that,” Hurdle said.
Chris Leroux entered for Locke and quickly showed why he was the last player on the Pirates Opening Day roster to make an appearance this season. First batter Justin Sellers broke his early-season slump by driving a fastball into left field for a home run. After back-to-back walks from Leroux, Gonzalez collected his fourth RBI with a line-drive single to make it 6-2.
Matt Guerrier and J.P. Howell combined to keep the Bucs scoreless and close out the Dodgers’ seventh-straight win against the Pirates. The loudspeakers cranked up Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.” to act as the Pirates’ funeral march for the third time in 48 hours.