LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 10: Andre Ethier #16 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate his solo homerun with Manager Don Mattingly in front of Matt Kemp #27 for a 2-1 lead against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the eighth inning during opening day at Dodger Stadium on April 10, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
The Pirates played their fourth consecutive one-run game to start the season and lost 2-1 to the Dodgers on Tuesday after Andre Ethier hit a low Jason Grilli breaking ball for a go-ahead solo homer in the eighth. (It came right after Grilli had struck out Mark Ellis and the great Matt Kemp, and it didn't look like a particularly bad pitch. Tough luck for Grilli.)
Kevin Correia pitched six innings, striking out three and walking two. His only run allowed came in the bottom of the first, when Dee Gordon singled, stole second, and moved to third and then home on grounders.
Clayton Kershaw, however, was dominant, striking out seven and walking none in seven innings while also allowing only one run, which came on a Matt Hague groundout in the seventh. Casey McGehee had narrowly missed the line on a foul ball on the previous at-bat, which would have changed given the Pirates a clear shot to win the game, but alas, no.
The Pirates offense only registered five hits, four of them singles. The other was a triple by McGehee in the second in which he drove the ball to deep center and Kemp couldn't catch it at the wall. But McGehee got stranded when Hague and Neil Walker waved at breaking balls and Rod Barajas flied out to right.
The Bucs have now scored only eight runs in their first four games. Obviously, facing Kershaw, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee hasn't helped. Chad Billingsley and Chris Capuano should provide at least somewhat of a respite in the next two games. I took some flak here for saying that the Pirates' getting two-hit by Halladay and the Phils was "incredibly embarrassing," and I stand by that -- two-hitters are a poor result against anybody, and a dismal showing on Opening Day is magnified that much more.
But that doesn't mean we should ignore the fact that these pitchers are really, really good. The Pirates will probably only play a dozen, or maybe two dozen, games this season against pitchers as good as Halladay, Lee and Kershaw, and here they got three of them in four games. The announcers drew attention to a moment in that bad second inning today, with McGehee standing on third, where there was a 1-and-2 count against Hague, and Kershaw painted a 94 MPH fastball very, very close to the inside part of the plate. It was called a ball, but it was a ridiculously good pitch, and it was hard not to feel sympathy for Hague, because there wasn't much he could have done, and he simply had to hope for the best.
In the minors:
-P- West Virginia lost 6-5 to Asheville. Nick Kingham got poor results yet again, allowing four runs in 1.1 innings while walking two and striking out none. Alen Hanson went 2-for-3 with two walks; Josh Bell went 2-for-5 with a double.
-P- Drew Maggi and Dan Grovatt had three hits apiece and Casey Sadler struck out three in two hitless relief innings as Bradenton won 6-2.
-P- Elevys Gonzalez hit a three-run homer in a six-run fourth inning as Altoona won 6-1. Aaron Poreda allowed only one run but walked five in five innings. Tim Alderson pitched two scoreless innings.
-P- Jeff Clement went 4-for-5 in Indianapolis' 5-4, 12-inning loss to Columbus. Rudy Owens pitched five innings and had four strikeouts and no walks, but allowed four runs.
UPDATE from David: Having read through Charlie's recap and the 100+ comments and not seeing it mentioned, I thought it was worth noting Alex Presley tag from second to third in the seventh inning that lead to the Pirates only run. This team has been a poor baserunning team the last few years and plays like the one Presley made shouldn't be overlooked. The Dodgers should kill Juan Rivera for the manner in which he caught the ball (glove side and not positioned to throw), but it was a really heads up move by Presley and was directly responsible for the team's only run.
But if I had a chance to ask him, I'd like to know if he ran because of the way Rivera positioned himself to catch the ball or if he was going regardless. Had Rivera been ready to throw and made the throw he made, there is a good chance Presley would have been out and I'd have a whole different take on the situation. As it is, it looked like a very heads-up play.