In a game featuring two of the best young pitchers in the league, the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-4 in 10 innings, moving their record to 63-44 heading into Saturday’s game. While both Gerrit Cole and Clayton Kershaw did not have their best stuff, the Pirates were able to eventually get to Kershaw and the bullpen to walk away with the win. Even with the victory the Pirates still sit six games out of first, with the St. Louis Cardinals occupying that spot with a 70-39 record.
Kershaw came into the game with a streak of 37 consecutive scoreless innings, but Gregory Polanco put an end to that right away, sending the first pitch he saw into the stands for his sixth home run of the year. The Dodgers took the lead in the third inning when Howie Kendrick hit a ground ball to Aramis Ramirez at third. The throw by Ramirez pulled Michael Morse off the base and two runs scored.
With the bases loaded in the fourth inning, Chris Stewart drew a walk from Kershaw to score Andrew McCutchen. Home plate umpire Mark Carlson called two pitches strikes that were well outside of the strike zone before he finally made the correct call on an outside pitch and gave Stewart his base.
The fifth inning saw the Dodgers momentarily take the lead off a single by Jimmy Rollins to left field that Starling Marte had trouble fielding which resulted in Joc Pederson coming around to score. In the Pittsburgh half of the inning, Kershaw plunked Marte, who was brought in by McCutchen’s double. McCutchen moved to third on a wild pitch by Kershaw and scored on Ramirez’s single.
Cole pitched six innings of good baseball (“good” being compared to what he usually does on the mound), limiting the Dodgers to just the three runs on four hits. He walked three additional hitters and struck out five. He was replaced by Joakim Soria, who recorded the first two outs of the seventh without incident. Carl Crawford got on due to catcher’s interference and then stole second. A double to deep center field by Rollins scored Crawford and tied the game.
The Pirates had the bases loaded in the eighth inning and were not able to score the winning run. Tony Watson and Mark Melancon pitched in their usual eighth and ninth inning roles and did not surrender anything, moving the game into extra innings. Antonio Bastardo was tapped for the tenth inning and got out of it without giving up a run, but not without some excitement.
With Kendrick on second after hitting a double and issuing a walk to Scott Van Slyke, Bastardo uncorked a wild pitch to move both runners into scoring position. He ended the inning by striking out Yasmani Grandal, giving the Pirates the chance to walk off in the tenth inning.
Jung Ho Kang begin the tenth by taking a walk and Francisco Cervelli moved him to second with a single. Sean Rodriguez went up to the plate with the goal of moving the runners up, and did even better than that. He sent a hard bunt to the third base side of the infield, but due to poor communication by Jim Johnson and Alberto Callaspo, no one fielded the ball and all runners were safe. Pedro Alvarez came in as a pinch hitter and the Dodgers countered by bringing in left J.P. Howell. With the Dodgers employing the rare five player infield, Alvarez blistered a ball to right field, scoring Kang and giving the Pirates a win in the first game of the series.
What Stood Out
One of the main narratives coming into Friday’s game was Kershaw’s scoreless inning streak. Polanco quickly stopped any talk of the streak continuing when he led the game off with a home run. Kershaw is one of the absolute best pitchers in the game today and the Pirates were able to get to him. He is the type of pitcher that the Pirates will have to face in the postseason and they had a good game against him.
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Polanco continues to slowly but surely bring his batting average up and provide some power occasionally. He has done a good job as of late in the lead off spot and could potentially hold on to it even with Josh Harrison scheduled to be back in a few weeks. Certainly Alvarez deserves to be mentioned too, coming through in a big way to end the game with a win. He is one of the most criticized starters on the team and hits like that could go a long way in changing the public’s view of him.
Francisco Liriano and Mat Latos will face off in the second game of the series tomorrow at 4:05pm. Liriano could not finish six innings his last time out, but the six starts before that all registered as quality starts. He’ll take an ERA just under three into the contest and continues to show that he was one of the top bargains of the offseason. Latos limited the Angels to just one run over six innings in his Dodger debut on Sunday, but only recorded one strikeout.