3 up, 3 down: Dodgers 3, Pirates 2
April, 12, 2012
By Tony Jackson | ESPNLosAngeles.com
Harry How/Getty ImagesMatt Kemp rounds the bases as he scores one of the Dodgers' three first-inning runs Thursday.
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers scored three runs in the first inning, then held on for a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates before 28,328 on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium, giving them a three-game sweep of the Pirates and their first 6-1 start to a season since 1981, a year that ended with a World Series title.
The Dodgers' bullpen came up huge after starter Chris Capuano was lifted with one out in the sixth, Mike MacDougal, Scott Elbert, Josh Lindblom, Matt Guerrier and Javy Guerra combining to blank the Pirates on two hits over the final 3 2/3. Guerra picked up his fifth save with a perfect ninth inning.
Goose egg cracked. James Loney won't go the whole season without a hit. That became official with two outs in the bottom of the first inning, when the slumping first baseman broke out of his 0-for-16 skid with a hard, opposite-field single through the left side, bringing home Matt Kemp from second to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead. Alas, Loney went hitless the rest of the night and now is 1-for-20, an average of .050.
Getting it done. Elbert, the lone lefty in the Dodgers' bullpen and a guy who struggled with his command in his first two appearances, came on to face left-handed pinch hitter Garrett Jones with the bases loaded, two outs and the Dodgers nursing a one-run lead in the sixth. The Pirates countered with righty-hitting Matt Hague, but Elbert needed just two pitches to get Hague to fly out to center and end the threat. Elbert had allowed two of his three previous inherited runners this season to score.
Well-timed cutdown. For the first time this season, a Dodgers catcher threw out a runner attempting to steal, and it came at a critical point in the game. With Pirates speedster Andrew McCutchen trying to get into scoring position with two outs in the seventh, Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis fired a bullet to second baseman Mark Ellis to nail McCutchen and end the inning, preserving the one-run lead. A.J. Ellis has now cut down one of two runners who have tried to steal on him this season.
Too much air. Dee Gordon, whose game relies heavily on speed and thus relies heavily on hitting the ball on the ground, made fly ball outs in each of his first three plate appearances, including with two on and two out in the fourth immediately after Capuano worked Pirates starter Jeff Karstens for a walk. Gordon, who is hitting a disappointing .200 with an even-more-disappointing .273 on-base percentage, has to be able to take advantage of his speed at the top of the order, but he has no chance of doing that when he hits high, catchable fly balls.
Running on empty. For the second start in a row, lefty Capuano was dominating through the early innings, then ran out of gas well before he reached 100 pitches. This time, he began to run into trouble in the fifth, when he gave up a solo homer to Michael McKenry and then hit a batter. Once he gave up back-to-back hits to start the sixth and a sac fly that shaved the Dodgers' lead to one run, manager Don Mattingly had seen enough. Capuano was gone after 81 pitches, five fewer than he threw in 4 2/3 innings Saturday night in San Diego. On a positive note, Capuano's ERA went from a ghastly 7.71 to a just-sort-of-not-very-good 5.40.
No-shows (again). For the second night in a row, the Dodgers played in front of a bunch of empty seats, with an official attendance of 28,328. Total paid attendance for the past two nights has been 58,057. Total paid attendance for Tuesday's home opener was 56,000.