PITTSBURGH -- A larger-than-usual bottle of wine sat on Dave Roberts' desk in the visiting manager's office at PNC Park on Tuesday. It was the remnant of a staff meeting the night before, not a means of celebrating the Dodgers' long climb back to .500 after sinking to 10 games
PITTSBURGH -- A larger-than-usual bottle of wine sat on Dave Roberts' desk in the visiting manager's office at PNC Park on Tuesday. It was the remnant of a staff meeting the night before, not a means of celebrating the Dodgers' long climb back to .500 after sinking to 10 games under on May 16. But the symbolism was clear.
"We're back in the mix, and now the goal is to keep playing good baseball," Roberts said after his team won for the 14th time in 18 games, a 5-0 victory over the Pirates at PNC Park paced by three home runs and another splendid outing by starter Thomas Stripling.
A right-hander pressed into service because of a rash of injuries to Dodgers starters, Stripling (4-1) pitched five scoreless innings, giving up four hits. He struck out seven and walked none, reducing his ERA from 1.68 to 1.52.
Since yielding four runs in four innings in his first start of the season on April 30, Stripling has not allowed more than two runs in any of his subsequent six starts.
"I thought he was great," said Roberts, who lifted Stripling after five, due to a challenging fifth inning raising his pitch count to 84. "With that lead, I thought it was best if that was the end of his night."
The first two Pirates hitters in the fifth got on base, and Stripling eventually escaped a two-out, bases-loaded situation by retiring Josh Harrison on a fly ball.
Stripling is an emerging story. He was 8-14 with a 3.87 ERA his first two seasons, a former starter converted to a reliever in 2017. He assumed the same role this year, until the starters started dropping, one by one, and he joined the rotation.
"To expect him to go out and compete, execute a game plan, work ahead of hitters, be efficient, that's the one thing for me I'll bet on that," Roberts said. "To play defense behind him, to watch him, he's in complete control and he just commands the game."
Facing Pirates starter Joe Musgrove (2-1), who looked impressive himself in his first two outings of the season after coming off the disabled list, Joc Pederson hit his fourth homer after Matt Kemp singled to lead off the second, giving the Dodgers all the runs they would need.
It was Pederson's third home run off Musgrove -- counting the postseason -- and it was a timely one. Pederson had hit just one home run in his first 151 plate appearances this season. Then, he belted two against Colorado Friday before taking Musgrove deep Tuesday.
"Driving the ball and hitting it out of the park is my game, and when you're not necessarily doing that, there's some frustration," Pederson said. "But the more you do it, the less it happens. You have to let it come to you instead of trying to force it."
Yasiel Puig belted a solo shot for his seventh home run in the fourth and Cody Bellinger, who has been slumping badly, did the same for his ninth homer in the sixth. The dugout celebration was essentially a collective sigh of relief.
"I'm working on a lot of things to try and simplify my swing," Bellinger said. "Trying to do that and still compete in the game."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Stripling was sailing until the fifth inning, when Corey Dickerson led off with a single and shortstop Chris Taylor dropped a relay throw on a double-play ball. Two out, none on.
Stripling struck out Gregory Polanco and got Sean Rodriguez to pop out, but pinch-hitter Starling Marte singled to load the bases. Stripling, however, held the Pirates in check when Harrison flied out.
"That was a big test," Stripling said. "Right off the bat, I thought it was a tailor-made double play. He probably would have beat it at first. And they beared down, had a couple of long [at-bats]. Between Polanco and Rodriguez I basically threw, like, 18 pitches in those at-bats. It basically knocked me out of the game.
"But to keep them off the board there was huge. I feel like it gave me confidence keeping a zero on the board."
HE SAID IT
"He's been working hard, and there's a lot of struggles in this game, unfortunately. I've been through some of them, and kind of where he's been at. It's frustrating and he's been doing a good job handling it and making some adjustments along the way. He's in a good spot and knows that he's done it before, so it's all gonna come back." -- Pederson, on Bellinger's home run
Left-hander and Dodgers No. 15 prospect Caleb Ferguson, pitching for Double-A Tulsa less than two weeks ago, makes his Major League debut on Wednesday at PNC Park at 4:05 p.m. PT against the Pirates. Ferguson was 3-0 with a 1.53 ERA in 10 combined starts at Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City. The Bucs will send right-hander Trevor Williams (5-3, 3.84 ERA) to the mound.
Bob Cohn is a contributor to MLB.com based in Pittsburgh.