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LAD@PIT: McCutchen lifts his 24th homer of the year

PITTSBURGH -- Even though he never got a team into the World Series, Gene Mauch was a legendary manager partly because he could be a legendary meetings-holder. Whenever he felt that his players needed a talking-to, Mauch would be certain to call for a meeting before they would go out to face some journeyman pitcher.

"That way," Mauch would say, "I had a pretty good chance of coming off looking good with the meeting."

Next time A.J. Burnett decides to convene a meeting of the Pirates, he needs to make sure it doesn't come before they face a reigning Cy Young Award pitcher.

Burnett and teammates had their say during Wednesday's pregame players-only meeting, but Clayton Kershaw's pitching spoke even more eloquently in-game. With the left-hander pitching six-hit ball for eight innings, the Bucs lost, 9-3, to the Dodgers at PNC Park.

The insult of a sixth loss in seven games was joined by the injury of Neil Walker, who exited the game with a dislocated finger on his right hand.

Outside of the injury, the Bucs' seventh loss in 10 games on this homestand was a distressing carbon copy of the others. An immediate deficit, pile-on runs by the opposition, little retort by the Pirates.

Fellow lefty Wandy Rodriguez couldn't be a worthy adversary for Kershaw. Rodriguez (7-12, including 0-3 with the Pirates) allowed scoring in three of his first four innings, putting a virtually insurmountable 5-1 lead into Kershaw's hands.

Andrew McCutchen connected for his career-high 24th homer, Garrett Jones picked up his 58th RBI and Clint Barmes also drove in a run, but those Pittsburgh offensive highlights were no match for Los Angeles' 15-hit attack.

The Dodgers own six straight wins over the Bucs season, nine in a row overall and since 2001 have gone 63-23 against Pittsburgh.

Los Angeles' 2012 domination has been enabled by stunning clutch pitching. Barmes' run-scoring single in the eighth inning was only the Bucs' third hit with men in scoring position off Dodgers pitchers this season -- in 33 at-bats.

When the Dodgers pushed across a first-inning run, that made it 13 times out of 14 August games that the Bucs' opposition had scored first.

The pain of that run was felt way beyond the scoreboard. In the middle of a typically tormenting rally against them, the Pirates had to watch Walker writhing on the ground in agony.

The second baseman had raced with Matt Kemp's grounder to the bag to get the forceout at second and in the same motion released a double-play-seeking throw to first. But as he tumbled over the runner, Mark Ellis, he instinctively reached out his right hand to break his fall. His entire body crashed atop that hand, dislocating a finger.

The inning had begun with Shane Victorino beating out a slow roller to third, continuing on to second on Josh Harrison's throwing error, stopping at third on Ellis' single to right and scoring on Kemp's grounder.

The Bucs fought back to tie Kershaw in the second. Gaby Sanchez led off with a double -- his first extra-base hit in 29 at-bats with the Pirates -- and scored after long flies by Michael McKenry and Jones, who got his 58th RBI on the sacrifice fly.

Catching up to an elite pitcher such as Kershaw provided a huge lift.

The high did not last long.

Rodriguez gave that run, and the lead, right back on Juan Rivera's bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the third, and gave the Dodgers three more in the fourth -- two on a double by Kemp, who then scored on a double by Hanley Ramirez.

Interestingly, Rodriguez was allowed to pitch to Kemp with first base open, two outs and Ramirez on deck. Kemp (.359) had come into the game batting a hundred points higher than Ramirez (.255) -- but not in the lefty's eyes. In a comparable number of at-bats, Ramirez's lifetime average (.409) was nearly two hundred points better than Kemp (.238) against Rodriguez.

The Pirates' bench was aware of that. When Kemp punched the 1-2 pitch into the opposite right-field corner to break the game open, the bench became aware of something else: This was not going to be Rodriguez's night.

"That was a microcosm of his game," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He got to the count he wanted and threw the pitch he wanted to throw -- but missed his location.

"Wandy's fastball was up more than in the past. The curve had no bite at times. Overall, command was challenging for him."

Thus, the visiting team reached five runs for a ninth straight time on this homestand. In their 50 previous home games, the Bucs had allowed five-plus runs seven times.

By the end of that fourth inning, the Dodgers had 10 hits, matching the most Rodriguez has ever given up. Considering he was pitching in his 231st big league game, not an insignificant milestone.

"I was making the pitches I wanted, but they kept hitting soft hits through the infield," said Rodriguez, who called the experience "very frustrating."

The Dodgers pinned four runs in the seventh on righty reliever Chris Resop, on RBI hits by James Loney and Luis Cruz, and sacrifice flies by A.J. Ellis and Kershaw.

"I don't see any fatigue," Hurdle said of his relievers, who have allowed 10 runs in the three Los Angeles games. "I see a lack of command. And you have to start eliminating [hitters'] comfort. We're not doing that."

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