McCutchen's blast not enough to flip script in LA

McCutchen's blast not enough to flip script in LA

LOS ANGELES -- The Pirates' stay in Dodger Stadium, appropriately overrun with movie and television glitterati all weekend, was like a lot of other Hollywood productions: Based on a true story.

But still a little hard to believe.

With Korean rookie left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu extending their torment on Sunday, the Bucs were swept out of Chavez Ravine, 6-2. Jeff Locke, the Pirates' own young southpaw, couldn't quite keep up with Ryu, allowing four runs -- three of them delivered by Adrian Gonzalez -- in six innings.

Ryu got the Dodgers rotation's booby prize by allowing three hits (in 6 1/3 innings) against the Pirates. Before him, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw had both allowed only two.

The Pirates had a total of eight hits in the three games. Three of the six in the last two games did not leave the infield: two by Starling Marte (including a bunt hit) and one by Jose Tabata.

So while Randy Newman's iconic song blared out of the park's speakers after the game, the Pirates were humming their own version: "I Love [To Leave] LA!"

"Yeah, pretty good rotation. All we could've hoped for in this series was to just battle every at-bat, because of the quality of pitching we're facing," said Pedro Alvarez, who had seven strikeouts and zero hits over the weekend. "After a series like that, you just want to see some different arms."

At least one of the Pirates' four total hits on Sunday left the park, as Andrew McCutchen connected for the team's first homer of the season in the first inning for a brief 2-0 lead.

McCutchen -- 4-for-17 overall and uncharacteristically hitless in five at-bats against lefties -- followed a single by Marte with his homer into the left-field pavilion.

"It was just the wrong pitch at the wrong time," Ryu said. "As the game went on I was focused a little bit more and I picked up my game."

The lead lasted until the Dodgers' fourth batter: Gonzalez singled to score Nick Punto and Matt Kemp -- who had set the table with a double into the right-center gap, his second hit of the season in 19 at-bats.

"That was a big hit. It gets us right back on the board. It was kind of like a do-over," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Hyun-Jin gets to be back square, he's not behind, and he just settles in and does his thing."

Is seeing a rare lead disappear that quickly painful?

"It is," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "You throw a punch, go two up, and next thing you know you're even again. That's sport. Nobody felt worse than [Locke]. He battled. He bent, didn't really break."

"The first inning was rough. I had to battle through it, and it worked better for me as I went along," Locke said.

When Kemp's sacrifice fly gave the Dodgers a 3-2 lead in the third, it was the season's first lead change in a Pirates game.

Gonzalez helped ensure there would not be another lead change by making it 4-2 with an RBI single in the fifth.

Locke did not let any of his smoldering innings break into a full-fledged firestorm, which was the big issue during his callup last season, when one big inning appeared to mar his starts.

"It was one of those days when you had to take what you got and do the best you can with it," Locke said. "I feel comfortable here. This is where I belong."

Locke's six innings matched the longest of his brief career, reached last season on Sept. 9 and Oct. 1. That latter effort yielded his first career win, which remains his only one in eight decisions. On Sunday, Locke yielded eight hits and four runs, with a walk and three strikeouts.

It was a tenacious, not forceful performance: Locke made 86 pitches, and elicited only seven swings-and-misses (two of them by Ryu, his pitching adversary) -- not the sort of outing to wow a staff admittedly fond of swing-and-miss stuff.

"There's a lot for him to take away from this and learn from the experience," Hurdle said. "He needs to get ahead more. He got into some deep counts. The fastball command and the mix of pitches were better in his last two outings of Spring Training."

Locke did better at pitching than in the other aspects of a pitcher's game. He didn't break quickly to cover first on Juan Uribe's fourth-inning bouncer to first baseman Gaby Sanchez for the Bucs to have a shot at a double play. In the top of the next inning, after John McDonald had drawn a leadoff walk, Locke twice squared around to bunt but took called strikes both times, then swung through strike three.

And in the season's 45th inning, on the 674th pitch thrown to them, the Pirates finally hit one out. The honor belonged to the most likely candidate, McCutchen.

Going the first five games without a home run matched the Bucs' season-starting dry spells of 1998 and 1967, but fell far short of the drought of 1943. The Bucs' first homer of that season was struck on May 4, in their 12th game, by Vince DiMaggio.

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.