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Musgrove pitches well but Pirates bumble way to 7th straight loss

Pittsburgh Pirates v Chicago Cubs Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Joe Musgrove nursed a narrow 1-0 lead into the seventh inning, but a lack of fundamental on the field and in the dugout gifted the Dodgers three runs, as the Pirates lost their seventh game in a row fell below .500 for the first time since the opening week of the season.

The Pirates had taken a 1-0 lead off Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw in the third inning when Pablo Reyes led off with a single and two outs later came around to score when Adam Frazier rolled a hit into left field.

In seven innings of work, Kershaw only allowed one other hit, with no walks and eight strikeouts.

Musgrove, who entered the game with the major league’s fifth best earned run average of 1.59, was cruising through one of his better games of the year, throwing strikes and inducing soft contact. Through six innings he had thrown 78 pitches, and it looked he could even go eight, but Max Muncy led off with a sharp grounder that struck the first base umpire, holding him to a single, then another left-handed batter Alex Verdugo hit another sharp grounder, that time finding the hole between first and second, sending Muncy to third.

With the tying run at third and no one out, a strikeout was desperately needed, and Kyle Crick was ready and available to face the next two batters, Chris Taylor and Austin Barnes, both right-handers - but at 89 pitches Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle elected to stay with Musgrove. Taylor lifted a high fly to right that Melky Cabrera caught, who made a desperate throw home but at 289 feet from home plate the throw was well late, over the cutoff man and only served to allow the runner Verdugo to take second. Barnes then hit a sharp grounder to shortstop Cole Tucker behind the bag at second on what might have been a double play if Verdugo had been held to first base. Tucker bobbled and the batter reached (on a generously awarded single) when first baseman Josh Bell couldn’t handle Tucker’s short hopped throw.

With the scored tied 1-1, with runners at first and third and one out, Musgrove stayed in and caught pinch-hitter Kike Hernandez looking at strike three. Having thrown 98 pitches in the game and 20 in the inning, Musgrove was heading into the fourth time through the order, with a string of left-handed batters coming up and left-handed pitcher Francisco Liriano ready and available - but Hurdle gave Musgrove the chance to get out of the inning, and was greeted on the first pitch to Joc Pederson with a 108 mph liner to the wall in right-center for a two-run triple, giving the Dodgers a 3-1 lead. Then came Liriano, who quickly fanned the left-handed Corey Seager.

With Kershaw out of the game, Pittsburgh quickly attempted to mount a comeback off reliever Caleb Ferguson. Cole Tucker walked (his first in the majors after 27 plate appearances), pinch-hitter Gregory Polanco lined a single to right, and then Adam Frazier walked, loading the bases with no outs. Ferguson got an early exit in favor of Pedro Baez, who proceeded to pump in fastball after fastball at the letters, getting Cabrera and Colin Moran to pop out and Josh Bell to go down on strikes, on three straight swings and misses.

Kenley Jansen made quick work of the Pirates in the ninth inning for his ninth save.

The Pirates had other defensive gaffes that didn’t lead to runs. In the fourth, both shortstop Tucker and second baseman Frazier were positioned on the right side of the infield for left-handed batter Verdugo, and the two collided while fielding the ball, with Verdugo then able to beat Frazier’s throw to first. Two batters before, Justin Turner tagged at first and took second on Cody Bellinger’s fly ball to center when Bryan Reynolds wasn’t aware that Turner was attempting to advance.

The Pirates will try to salvage one game, as the three game series concludes at 4:10 p.m. Eastern on Sunday afternoon, with Trevor Williams scheduled to face left-hander Rich Hill.