Bucs down Dodgers, gain in NL Wild Card race

Bucs down Dodgers, gain in NL Wild Card race

LOS ANGELES -- A three-run first inning was all the Pirates needed Friday night in a 5-1 win over the Dodgers that saw homers from Andrew McCutchen and Jordy Mercer.

The Pirates opened the game with four singles in five at-bats against Los Angeles starter Ross Stripling, who regrouped from there, setting down 18 of the final 20 batters he faced to last seven innings. It was his longest outing since his 7 1/3 innings of no-hit ball in his debut against San Francisco.

"It was pretty methodical, but it was advantageous that we took what we had, took what was there, and given to us, to score three runs," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We've had that same inning before and not always walked away with three runs. It was very good to get off the mark like that."

Unfortunately for Stripling, those two batters he didn't retire were McCutchen and Mercer, who each took him deep. Pittsburgh starter Ivan Nova allowed nine hits in 5 1/3 innings, but spread them around well enough to allow just one run. Add that to his seven innings of three-run ball in his Pittsburgh debut, and the right-hander now holds a 2.91 ERA as a Pirate.

The Dodgers will remain one game back in the National League West thanks to the Giants' 5-2 loss against Baltimore. With the win and the Marlins' loss to the White Sox, the Pirates pulled within one game of the second National League Wild Card spot. Pittsburgh's closest competitors -- the Cardinals and Mets -- lost Friday.

"Just keep taking it day by day. That's what we've got to do, keep chipping away," McCutchen said. "That's what we're going to do as a team. When the season's at the end, we'll see where we are."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Vintage Cutch: McCutchen was at his best, flashing his former MVP form throughout the night. McCutchen pulled an RBI single to left field in the first, then stole second base, only his fifth steal of the season. He homered to right field, showing the kind of opposite-field power that typically defines his hot streaks. He also made a highlight-reel play in center, racing back and tumbling down after snagging a Yasmani Grandal line drive in the second inning.

"He had a very good game tonight. Our outfielders were playing like they're out in the backyard," Hurdle said. "It was fun to watch those guys. ... Andrew had a very solid game, got his swing off at the plate. Good to see." More >

McCutchen shows off versatility

Deja vu: Joc Pederson and Howie Kendrick were the lowest position players in the Los Angeles starting lineup, but they contributed as much as anybody in what has been a deep lineup lately. In both the second and fourth innings, Pederson hit a two-out double and Kendrick followed with a single, only for Stripling to end the inning with a swinging strikeout.

Nova fans Stripling, escapes jam

Up, but not out: Nova's final line was satisfactory, but the performance didn't necessarily match the outcome. The right-hander left a number of balls up in the zone and allowed a lot of hard contact, recording only three groundouts compared to 10 in the air. However, Nova continued to pound the strike zone -- he hasn't walked a batter in two starts with the Pirates -- and he kept the ball in the park, completing a homer-free start for only the second time this season. When they acquired Nova before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Pirates expected the veteran right-hander would benefit from a move out of the American League -- and Friday was a perfect example of how he can improve in the NL.

"Pitching in National League ballparks that are bigger than the American League, especially the East, and the defense that I have behind me, that's allowed me to be more aggressive in the strike zone," Nova said. "A lot of them, especially to left field, Marte made a couple plays that could be on the wall, maybe homers. But we're in the National League now, so it's different."

Baiting a hook: Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has been forced to pull pitchers early plenty of times this season, so it must have at least crossed his mind to take out Stripling following Mercer's leadoff home run in the seventh. He chose to go with the rookie to get three more outs and it paid off, as Stripling retired the next three batters and posted his longest start since his career debut.

"That was awesome," Stripling said. "I'm not going to lie, I kinda looked over to see if Doc was coming and I didn't. Seeing no one coming, I was like 'Let's bear down and get three more outs here. Keep us in it and give us a chance to win.' That's huge for personal confidence and hopefully we can keep doing that." More >

Stripling strikes out Freese

QUOTABLE
"It's Dodger Stadium. It's L.A. It's paradise, for sure." -- McCutchen, on why he hits well in Chavez Ravine

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Starling Marte threw out Chase Utley at second base in the third inning, his NL-leading 13th outfield assist this season. He also has reached base safely in 16 of his last 17 games, quietly batting .333 with six doubles, a triple and 10 runs scored.

Marte nabs Utley for double play

Stripling's seven innings is the longest outing for a Dodgers starter since Scott Kazmir threw seven in Washington on July 19. 

UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Hurdle didn't wait long to challenge a call, asking for a replay of the first play of the game. Josh Harrison was called out on a grounder to shortstop Corey Seager, who struggled to get the ball out of his glove. After a short review, the call was overturned and Harrison was ruled safe. He came around to score two batters later.

Harrison's infield single

One inning later, Pittsburgh challenged a call at the plate. Pederson doubled and scored on Kendrick's single to right field. Gregory Polanco made a strong throw home, but home-plate umpire Marvin Hudson ruled that catcher Eric Fryer didn't tag Pederson in time. The safe call stood and the Dodgers' first run remained on the board.

Kendrick's RBI single

WHAT'S NEXT
Pirates: Gerrit Cole will look to bounce back after a rough start against the Reds when he takes the mound Saturday against the Dodgers. The Southern California native is 2-0 with a 4.05 ERA in two starts at Dodger Stadium and 13-3 in 19 career starts against NL West teams. First pitch is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. ET.

Dodgers: Brandon McCarthy will try to find his fastball command as he takes the mound Saturday. After registering a 1.61 ERA in his first four starts back from Tommy John surgery, the right-hander has lasted an average of three innings in his last three starts and has walked 12 in nine innings.

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Jack Baer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.