Bucs' bats quieted in loss to Dodgers
Ohlendorf lasts three innings; Adam LaRoche homers late
PITTSBURGH -- After executing so well on all sides of the diamond in a three-game sweep over the weekend, the Pirates fell flat in numerous respects in Monday night's series opener against the Dodgers.
An unenthusiastic crowd of 13,147 at PNC Park did all it could to muster up some support for an uninspired performance from the home team, which snapped its winning streak with an 8-2 loss to the Dodgers. But even the fans seemed ready for the exits by the time the drawn-out, two hour, 53-minute game came to an end.
In a game with little for Pirates fans to get excited about, give them credit for trying. A one-out walk to Andy LaRoche in the fifth stirred up a hearty "Let's Go Bucs" chant that lasted three pitches. Shortstop Luis Cruz answered by grounding into an inning-ending double play.
The "Let's Go Steelers" chant began three innings later.
After the fourth question asked of manager John Russell in his brief postgame session with the media, one writer closed his notebook, saying, "There's not much more to ask about that one."
"Yeah," Russell answered. "I agree."
Yes, it was that sort of evening.
Prior to the start of a fresh four-game set, Russell had plenty to say. He talked about a remaining two-week stretch that despite the lack of playoff implications for his club could be a sort of springboard into next season.
"This is a very important time of year for us, not only for evaluation, but for these guys to finish strong to carry over into the offseason and next year," he said. "They've grinded it out very hard all year, especially with a very tough August that was very frustrating. These guys battled.
"The intensity has always been there. The focus, the drive late in games has been great."
There's no basis to say the intensity, focus or drive lacked on Monday, but a laboring Ross Ohlendorf set a dragging tone early that stuck through the game's entirety.
"It was a struggle each inning on the mound," Russell said of the right-hander. "He kind of labored every inning. He wasn't really going anywhere."
Pirates pitching as a group issued eight walks and released three wild pitches before the night ended. Two could-have-been-made defensive plays didn't help. And the offense came up with just five hits in its night's work.
Ohlendorf came into the start still looking for his first win with the organization. His last start ended fairly quickly, as would this one. The right-hander escaped a second inning in which he walked two, allowed an extra-base hit and threw a wild pitch, but he wouldn't have the same magic in the third.
|"Overall, the efficiency of my pitches was pretty bad. Those four walks, especially the last three, were pretty bad. Hopefully next time I'll work on throwing more strikes, especially earlier in the count."|
|-- Ross Ohlendorf|
"My slider was really inconsistent," Ohlendorf said. "My fastball I didn't locate like I should have either. I didn't feel like I threw my changeup well tonight either."
His command with his breaking ball was especially off.
"I was bouncing it pretty far in front of the plate at times," said Ohlendorf, who dropped to 0-2 with the loss. "I threw one that almost hit the grass."
A walk, single and another pitch to the backstop set up Manny Ramirez's two-run double in the third. An ill-advised throw on a stolen base attempt -- with two outs -- then plated another Dodgers run.
In an attempt to throw out first baseman James Loney at second, catcher Ryan Doumit launched a one-hop throw that ended up in center field. Ramirez, who was standing on third, scored. Ohlendorf then struck out outfielder Matt Kemp to end the inning.
That would be it for Ohlendorf. The three runs (two earned) on five hits and four walks amassed a total of 70 pitches in his three-inning start. To put that into perspective, Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda needed just 83 pitches to finish seven.
"Overall, the efficiency of my pitches was pretty bad," Ohlendorf said. "Those four walks, especially the last three, were pretty bad. Hopefully next time I'll work on throwing more strikes, especially earlier in the count."
Emulating Ohlendorf -- and not in a positive way -- Marino Salas had control issues of his own. He walked the first two hitters he saw before two defensive muffs scored two.
A mistimed jump by Brandon Moss at the right-field wall led to a bases-loaded, one-out situation after it dropped behind him.
A low, sharp line drive that Adam LaRoche was unable to corral then scooted into right field for a two-run single.
A frustrating way to follow up a weekend high?
"Most definitely," said outfielder Nyjer Morgan, who, on a positive note, has reached base safely in each of his past 18 starts. "It's just part of the game. Sometimes everybody is going and sometimes not."
Before this game ended, outfielder Juan Pierre would connect for his first home run in 1,070 at-bats, a near-two-year span. And another wild pitch put the Dodgers in position to tally a run on a sacrifice fly that would have otherwise been a harmless fly out.
Those fans who stuck through this one saw the only significant offense flicker in the ninth, when a two-out home run by Adam LaRoche -- his 20th of the season -- did nothing more than prevent the Pirates from being shut out for the fifth time since trading away Jason Bay.
Before LaRoche's blast into the right-field stands, Kuroda limited the Pirates to just one hit after allowing consecutive singles to start the game.
"He was hitting his spots down," Russell said. "There wasn't much of an approach you could take with him. He got ahead and got you out of your comfort zone."
The loss dropped the Pirates back to one game below .500 at home this season and marked their third loss in four games against the National League West-leading Dodgers this season.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.