Dodgers show spark early, go quiet again in middle frames
By Steve Bourbon
LOS ANGELES -- For the second straight game the Dodgers hitters went silent for the middle innings, which contributed to losing their first series at home since early July.
The Dodgers had one base hit in the final six innings and dropped the rubber game to the Pirates, 4-3, on Sunday. Los Angeles only had two runners left on base in the game and the offense had five 1-2-3 innings. With the loss and the Giants' win over the D-backs, the Dodgers' magic number remained at seven with 14 games still to play.
After being shut down by Francisco Liriano for much of the night on Saturday, it was the Pirates' ace Gerrit Cole who was in a groove against the Dodgers. Los Angeles was without Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Turner in the lineup, but manager Don Mattingly didn't take that as an excuse.
"It is what it is, but you still have to go out and find a way to win games," Mattingly said. "It's not the lineup we envisioned but just go play."
The Dodgers got on the board immediately as Carl Crawford ripped a leadoff triple off the wall in right field and he was brought home by a two-out single from Andre Ethier. Los Angeles tacked on another run when Alex Guerrero brought home Joc Pederson with another two-out single in the second inning.
From there, Cole was locked in. After a Corey Seager double in the third, Cole retired 11 straight, which was very similar to Saturday's contest that saw Liriano retire 16 batters in a row during the middle innings.
"They've been good all year long. Cole's been consistent all year long and Liriano yesterday is as good as I've seen him," Mattingly said. "[Cole's] stuff is really good."
Scott Van Slyke, who was playing in his first game since Tuesday due to a sore hand, snapped the hitless streak in the seventh with a solo home run to dead center field to bring the Dodgers within a run, 4-3. Pederson followed suit with a deep ball to left-center field but he missed a home run by just a few feet as Starling Marte made the catch at the warning track.
The Dodgers couldn't muster a baserunner the rest of the game and the Pirates' four runs of support for Cole, headlined by solo home runs from Marte and Pedro Alvarez, held up for Pittsburgh's second straight win.
"It's a tough at-bat. He's able to command his fastball and pitch off his second and third pitch," Ethier said. "He's able to command his fastball to both sides of the plate. It makes a long day when you do that, especially when it's in the upper-90s."
Steve Bourbon is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.