Kuhl's rocky first inning sets ominous tone

Kuhl's rocky first inning sets ominous tone

LOS ANGELES -- Symbolism the Pirates didn't need. There it was, though, staring them in the face in the very first inning on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium.

The offense couldn't capitalize on an early opportunity. Their starting pitcher couldn't finish a strong start. Just like that, the Pirates were down by three runs and on the way to a 5-2 loss to the Dodgers for their fourth consecutive loss.

Josh Harrison opened the game for the Pirates by lining a double off Kenta Maeda. And never scored.

Pittsburgh right-hander Chad Kuhl opened the bottom of the first by striking out Joc Pederson and Corey Seager.

"He pitched the first two guys as well as we've pitched them the whole series," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.

Only then came a two-out walk to Justin Turner, and the inning -- and the game -- was about to take a significant turn.

"It's hard to do, but with two outs you just have to find a way to get that third out," Kuhl said. "Tonight was bad."

Up came the Dodgers' latest phenom, Cody Bellinger, over the fence went a changeup, fat over the plate.

"It's a shame what happened the first inning," Kuhl said. "It's just unacceptable."

Bellinger's two-run shot

It might have all rattled Kuhl a tad, who then gave up single to Yasmani Grandal, walked Chris Taylor and then a run-scoring base hit to Chase Utley.

The Dodgers had a quick 3-0 lead, and with Maeda shutting out the Pirates until the ninth, it was all the offense Los Angeles would really need.

"If he was knocking some dust, rust off, I don't know," Hurdle said. "But after that he pitched much better."

Kuhl (1-3) settled down, allowing only one more run. He ended going five innings, allowing four runs on six hits and the two first-inning walks. He struck out four.

"Nothing different. I just attacked the way I did the first two hitters of the game and it worked out," Kuhl said. "It's really that first inning. A couple mistakes and that's really it."

That's how it goes for the Pirates right now. With four key players on the disabled list and two more on the restricted list, they are playing nine rookies, playing players out of position, playing with obvious lack of depth.

"We need to continue to fight in the box," Hurdle said. "We need to connect the dots offensively. We need the guys to bring the skill sets that they do have and connect them together."

It didn't help their current cause that they ran into a Dodgers team so loaded with starting pitchers that Maeda was throwing to keep his spot in the rotation.

His breaking ball kept the struggling Pirates off balance all night.

"It's one of those things where you just have to battle and find a way through it," Harrison said. "It won't be 162 games of pitches like that."

The Pirates were swept by the Dodgers and now head to Arizona to play a four-game series against the D-backs. Hurdle was asked if a change of venue might help.

"We gotta leave," he said. "We can't stay here."

Steve Dilbeck is a contributor to MLB.com based in Los Angeles. He covered the Pirates on Wednesday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.