The Pittsburgh Pirates jumped out to an early lead against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday afternoon.
Starling Marte, who was the only Pirate to get a base hit off of Clayton Kershaw in Saturday nights game , led off the game with a single to left field off of MLB rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu. Ryu got Neil Walker to pop out to shortstop before Andrew McCutchen hit a two-run home run to deep left field. The next batter, Gaby Sanchez, was walked, giving the Pirates a shot at more runs. Michael McHenry grounded into a fielder’s choice but was able to advance to second soon afterwards on a wild pitch in the dirt. Ryu got out of the early jam by getting Pedro Alvarez to hit a come backer to him.
Carl Crawford grounded out to start the Dodgers’ half of the first, but that was followed up with Nick Punto singling to right-center field. He advanced to third on Matt Kemp’s double to deep right field. Adrian Gonzalez came up next with two runners in scoring position and knocked them both in with a single to center field, typing the game up at two apiece. Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke was able to get out of the jam by getting Jerry Hairston, Jr. and Juan Uribe to pop out to center field and right field, respectively.
Locke matched Ryu in the second inning with both pitchers have 1-2-3 innings and headed into the third inning stuck at a 2-2 tie.
Starling Marte led off the third with a bunt single but Ryu stranded him there after getting Walker to pop out to shortstop, McCutchen to fly out to shallow right field and Sanchez to fly out to left field.
The Dodgers played some good old-fashioned small ball in the bottom half of the third inning. After Crawford doubled to lead off the inning, he reached third on a Nick Punto sacrifice. Kemp flew out to right field, but the ball was deep enough to score Crawford and take a 3-2 lead. Gonzalez flied out to left field to end the inning.
Ryu had another inning where three Pirates stepped up to the plate and all three sat down after McHenry lined out to left, Alvarez struck out looking and Jose Tabata grounded out to shortstop.
The bottom of the fourth inning started off with an infield single by Hairston, but he was thrown at at second on a fielder’s choice on the next batter. Tim Federowicz. Justin Sellers popped out to left-center and Ryu, who isn’t used to batting because pitchers don’t bat in the Korean Baseball Organization, struck out looking.
McDonald led off the top of the fifth by drawing a walk, but Ryu was able to retire the next three batters in order. He got Locke to strike out looking, then he got Marte to fly out to left center and Walker to right field.
The bottom of the fifth started off with Carl Crawford hitting a bloop single to shallow right field . Nick Punto followed that up with a single of his own to right field, advancing Crawford to second. Matt Kemp, in what is becoming an early theme for him, grounded into a double play. The silver lining to the play was Crawford was able to advance to third base on the play. Gonzalez singled in the next at-bat, plating Crawford for a 4-2 lead but was thrown out at second trying to stretch his single into a double.
Ryu retired the Pirates order in a row once again in the top of the sixth inning by getting McCutchen to fly out to left field and then striking Sanchez and McHenry out to end the inning.
Locke matched Ryu for the bottom of the sixth by having his own 1-2-3 inning in which he got Hairston and Uribe to fly out to left before Federowicz grounding out to shortstop.
Ryu struck Alvarez out to start the seventh inning before being relieved by Ronald Belisario as the pitcher of record. Tabata singled off Belisario and Garrett Jones came in as a pinch hitter but flied out to left field. Travis Snider pinch hit for Pirates pitcher Locke but grounded out to second base to end the inning.
The Pirates called on Chris Leroux to relieve Locke in the bottom of the seventh and he immediately gave up a lead off home run to Justin Sellers, extending the Dodgers’ lead to 5-2. He was able to get Mark Ellis to fly out to center field then got Crawford to ground out to second base. Nick Punto drew a two out walk then stole second base. Kemp drew a walk to extend the inning for Adrian Gonzalez who hit an RBI single to right field, scoring Punto for a 6-2 lead. Leroux got Hairston to hit a ground ball to second baseman Neil Walker, who flipped the ball to McDonald covering second base for the force out.
Ronald Belisario continued to show that he can be an effective middle reliever by retiring the side, in order, in the top of the eighth. Marte hit a come-backer to Belisario who flipped the ball to first for the first out. Walker grounded out to first base and McCutchen grounded out to second base to end the inning.
Without a save situation, closer Brandon League got the night off and Matt Guerrier came on in the top of the ninth. He got Sanchez to ground out to shortstop for the first out of the ninth. The next batter up was McKenry who drew a walk. Skipper Don Mattingly then pulled Guerrier in favor of J.P. Howell to face the final two outs of the game. He struck out both Alvarez and Barmes to preserve the win for Hyun-Jin Ryu and the Dodgers.
This was the first major league victory for the Korean, since signing with the Dodgers this past off-season and the Dodgers’ first sweep in this young season.
Adrian Gonzalez had his best game of the year so far with three hits and four runs batted in and Carl Crawford had a double and a single. While both of them are on the right track Matt Kemp continues to have a slow start, batting just .100 through the first eight games.
But, even while he is struggling he is being supportive of his teammates.
”Ryu did a good job today,” Matt Kemp said. ”The first inning was rough, but after that he shut them down. I told him that was all they were going to get today from him, and he did what we asked him to do. We scored some runs for him and got him the W. We know what our offense is capable of doing. And if we stay within ourselves, we’ll be a very successful team.”
Ryu improves to 1-1 on the season after allowing just those two first inning runs and three hits over the span of six-and-one-third. He struck out six and walked two.
After his major league debut last week, Ryu admitted to being somewhat nervous about getting his first victory in America.
”The feeling came to me when we were up 4-2. That’s when I actually thought, ‘it could be today,’ Ryu said through a translator. ”It absolutely felt great to get the first win at Dodger Stadium in front of the home crowd, but most importantly it felt good to help my team get the win today.”
This was Jeff Locke’s season debut, and he falls to 0-1 on the season after giving up four runs and eight hits over six innings. The southpaw was Pittsburgh minor league pitcher of the year last season and is hoping this will be his first full season in the majors. He has a career record of just 1-7 with a 6.32 earned run average in the big leagues. He has given up nine home runs in just eleven big league starts over the past three seasons..
”I feel like I threw the ball really well in the spring, so when you break with this team up here, you’ve got to feel confident,” Locke said. ”I felt very confident coming in today, and the results of the game doesn’t change the kind of confidence I have in myself.”
While Ethier traditionally struggles against left-handed pitching and took the day off because a southpaw was on the mound, the opposite is true about left-handed first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Last season, Gonzalez led the majors with a batting average of .322 against left-handed pitchers.
”Lefties allow me to simplify things,” Gonzalez said. ”I tend to get greedy against righties, and I try to drive the ball and I end up pulling off it. But with lefties, I usually just try to take what they give me. I’m not trying to drive the ball, just take a single. And if the ball’s away then I try to go the other way and not get too quick. There’s a perfect swing, and then there’s a swing that gets results. Right now, I have a swing that gets results.”
Maybe he can teach Ethier a thing or two.
The Pirates have gone 4-19 at Blue Heaven on Earth since 2006 when they last won a series in Los Angeles.
This game concludes the Dodgers’ first home stand of the season as they head to San Diego for a three game set against the Padres.
They are currently in third place, one game behind the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks.
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