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Bucs' LA story derailed in forgettable fashion

Cumpton charged with 10 earned runs as Ryu limits damage

LOS ANGELES -- They all count for one, as the saying goes. So if you prevail in two pressure-cookers then get your clock cleaned on national television, you still lead the series.

That was about all with which the Pirates could console themselves after a 12-2 spanking by the Dodgers on Saturday, when Hanley Ramirez and left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu held the biggest paddles.

"Way too much of their offense. And we were one hit away from getting the big left-hander [Ryu] out but couldn't do it," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "This one got away from us quickly."

Ramirez's 4-for-4 day included a pair of home runs and five RBIs, and Ryu went six innings to protect his perfect record in seven career starts against National League Central teams.

Notwithstanding 6-3 and 2-1 wins in the first two acts of this four-game series, Pittsburgh was reminded it never reigns in Southern California.

The Bucs can downgrade that to "almost never" on Sunday, when they will have another chance to score their first series win here since Labor Day weekend 2000.

Saturday's game pitted two third-place teams, both starting the day 7 1/2 games out of the lead in their respective divisions. The similarity in the standings did not carry over onto the field, where the Dodgers took out some recent frustrations on the Bucs, primarily on Brandon Cumpton.

"When I did make a pitch, it found a hole. When I didn't, it found the gap," said Cumpton, who'd already had a couple of hours to digest the 3 2/3-inning outing in which he allowed 11 hits and 11 runs, all but one earned.

Los Angeles' hits came in bunches, explaining the blowout score despite the Pirates nearly drawing even in the hits column, with 11 to the Dodgers' 14. Jose Tabata led the way with three, and Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer and Chris Stewart each had two.

"It's hard to score runs," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly reasoned, in the generic. "Today was a day everything fell our way."

"This game will grab you," Hurdle said, "and it grabbed [Cumpton] today. He had to deal with the other side for the first time up here."

Cumpton's quick undoing was ironic. While Pittsburgh's other starters have had difficulty keeping the scoreboard barren through three innings, Cumpton has consistently listed zeros through the first four or five innings of all of his Major League starts but one. Hurdle was even moved to call that track record "crazy."

Through his first eight big league starts, including three this season, Cumpton had allowed a total of one run in the first four innings, a sum of 32 innings.

Then Saturday happened, which was even more crazy. Cumpton was in a 2-0 first-inning hole, courtesy of RBI singles by Ramirez and Matt Kemp.

Given an opening when left fielder Starling Marte dropped Andre Ethier's leadoff fly to the wall for a two-base error, the Dodgers hardly let Cumpton catch his breath in the third, scoring on four consecutive plays: Ramirez's single, Adrian Gonzalez's double, Kemp's sacrifice fly and Justin Turner's single, making it 6-0.

"It's a play ... we've talked about it," Hurdle said of the error by Marte, who appeared to be the last of about 50,000 in Dodger Stadium to realize the ball had dropped out of his glove. "He thought he had it secured. He lost the ball. I think he learned a valuable lesson -- that's a couple of hard lessons he's had the last couple of games."

"I felt like I couldn't catch a break," Cumpton said, "and I started falling behind guys, so they started sitting on the heater, doing what they're paid to do. [The fastballs] were up, flat."

With Ryu toying with the Pirates' lineup, they were not going to win this war. So, dealing with a short bullpen, they asked Cumpton to endure the beating and help them at least win a battle of attrition. His collateral damage in the fourth included Ramirez's two-run homer, another RBI single by Turner and Drew Butera's two-run triple -- struck off Jeanmar Gomez but scoring two more runs added to Cumpton's ledger.

"It wasn't about protection [for a thin bullpen], it was about pitching," Hurdle said. "It was about him trying to find a way to get things done."

Ryu doesn't know about days like this when he faces NL Central teams. He improved to 7-0 against them, with an ERA of 2.34.

"He bends but doesn't break," Mattingly said. "Guys get in scoring position, they act a little differently and get anxious. He seems to be able to take advantage of that."

But these days do happen. A.J. Burnett had one two years ago in St. Louis. Francisco Liriano had his last August in Denver. The 10 earned runs charged to Cumpton ballooned his ERA from 3.38 to 6.85.

"It's not discouraging. One start," Cumpton said. "I've gotten beat around before, and I'm sure it will happen again, so I'm not going to hang my head over it. It's one game."

And the next one will count just as much.

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer.
Read More: Pittsburgh Pirates, Starling Marte, Brandon Cumpton, Jose Tabata