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Bucs bust out, make LA pay for 10 walks

Vazquez's 4-out save holds off Dodgers on Kemp's 5-RBI night
June 6, 2018

PITTSBURGH -- After being shut out in back-to-back games, the Pirates' dormant lineup roared back to life on Wednesday night at PNC Park.Pittsburgh made short work of left-hander Caleb Ferguson in his Major League debut, continued to pound the Dodgers' middle relief corps and withstood several comebacks en route to

PITTSBURGH -- After being shut out in back-to-back games, the Pirates' dormant lineup roared back to life on Wednesday night at PNC Park.
Pittsburgh made short work of left-hander Caleb Ferguson in his Major League debut, continued to pound the Dodgers' middle relief corps and withstood several comebacks en route to an 11-9 win. The Pirates' fifth victory in their past 18 games kept them from falling below .500 for the first time this season.
"Definitely don't want to be saving hits or saving runs. Today was definitely a day that we needed to have that many on hand," shortstop Sean Rodriguez said. "We were fortunate, obviously, because we needed them."
But the Pirates did not just swing their way out of their collective slump. Pittsburgh's productive night began with patience. The Bucs finished the game with 10 walks, and three of them came against Ferguson in the second inning.

Ferguson loaded the bases without allowing a hit, on two walks and a hit batter, then Josh Harrison gave Pittsburgh a three-run lead with a double down the left-field line. After Ferguson walked Austin Meadows and left the game, Starling Marte slapped an RBI single to center field off reliever Daniel Hudson.
"You get exhausted mentally trying to do more. It comes to a point where you have to finally give in and take each at-bat for each at-bat and be OK with a single or a walk or something productive," said left fielder Corey Dickerson, who led the way with three hits. "It looked like everybody kind of had better approaches and had a little more fun tonight. Once we got things going, it reminds guys of what we're capable of."

That 4-0 lead did not last long. Starter Trevor Williams' recent struggles continued as he served up four runs in the third inning. Williams issued consecutive two-out walks before Matt Kemp crushed a two-run double to center and Cody Bellinger launched a low changeup into the right-field seats. Williams, who did not return to pitch the fourth inning, has an 8.50 ERA over his past four starts.
"I thought I was doing fine. I thought I was attacking the zone well, and we were getting weak contact and groundouts," Williams said. "I just lost it to two hitters. … Kemp ambushed on a sinker and got it. Bellinger just sold out to a changeup."

The Bucs took advantage of a few Dodgers mistakes to regain the lead in the third. With two on and nobody out, Colin Moran hit a potential double-play grounder to first base, but Player Page for Max Muncy's throw bounced off David Freese's helmet and into left field, and Dickerson scored on the error. Pinch-hitter Josh Bell beat out another potential double-play grounder with one out, allowing Freese to score from third.

Freese gave Pittsburgh some breathing room in the fourth with a two-run double to left, but Kemp made it a one-run game by smashing a three-run homer -- for five RBIs on the night -- into the visitors' bullpen against lefty reliever Steven Brault. The Pirates built up their third four-run lead of the night in the sixth, but the Dodgers pulled within two when Kyle Crick gave up a pair of runs in the eighth.

The Pirates called upon closer Felipe Vazquez to convert a four-out save, and he overcame two ninth-inning walks to finish what Williams later called a "bare-knuckle fight" -- and a hard-earned victory for the Pirates' lineup.
"I believe in these guys. You go through cycles in the game, and we won't be the first team to get back-to-back shutouts," manager Clint Hurdle said. "I look for how we respond. … So from that standpoint, it did not surprise me. We've seen it before. Everybody in this lineup contributed, from top to bottom, and we needed everybody to contribute top to bottom to win that game."

Breaking out: The Dodgers proved throughout the night that no lead would be safe Wednesday, so the Pirates' three-run sixth inning provided valuable insurance. Equally important, however, may have been the way they scored those runs -- more specifically, who drove them in. Rodriguez and Gregory Polanco entered the night in deep slumps -- Rodriguez 0-for-his-last-13 with a .162 average, Polanco in an 0-for-6 skid while carrying a .207 average. Hurdle offered each player some pregame advice, advising Rodriguez to get back to basics and suggesting Polanco move back from the plate.

Both came through in the sixth. With runners on the corners and one out, Rodriguez slapped a ground-ball single to left field off of reliever Yimi Garcia to drive in Dickerson. Up came Polanco, who ripped a pinch-hit, two-run double to right field to give the Bucs a four-run lead.
"It's been a fight for Sean, and Greg is working through his own set of challenges," Hurdle said. "For both of them to come through that inning was a big pickup for us."

The last time the Pirates gave up at least nine runs and beat the Dodgers was on Aug. 26, 1951. The Bucs won that game, 12-11, at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn.
Austin Barnes was on first base and running with one out in the sixth. Pinch-hitter Breyvic Valera hit a line drive to left, where a well-positioned Dickerson easily made the catch for one out. Barnes was at second base by that point, so Dickerson fired to Freese at first base. Freese dived and stretched toward the bag in time to force out Barnes, completing the rare 7-3 double play and giving Dickerson his career-high fifth outfield assist.

"Felt like I was back at Coors Field. It was just like, 'Come on, stop!' I felt like George Jetson on the treadmill: Jane, stop this crazy thing!" -- Hurdle, on the high-scoring game

Just after his highlight-reel assist in left field, Dickerson led off the sixth with a ground ball to shortstop Chris Taylor. Dickerson hustled down the line, but he was called out by first-base umpire Roberto Ortiz. The Pirates asked for a replay review, and the call was overturned. Dickerson advanced to second on Freese's walk, took third on Moran's grounder and scored on Rodriguez's single to left.

The Pirates will wrap up their series against the Dodgers at 12:35 p.m. ET on Thursday with Jameson Taillon on the mound. Taillon is coming off a dominant start in St. Louis, where he shut out the Cardinals and allowed only three hits in eight innings. Rookie Dennis Santana will start for Los Angeles.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.