PITTSBURGH -- Whatever momentum the Pirates created on Wednesday night did not carry over into Thursday afternoon. The Dodgers scratched their starter and sent a franchise-record nine pitchers to the mound, but the Bucs could not capitalize in an 8-7 loss at PNC Park that continued several troubling trends.The Pirates
PITTSBURGH -- Whatever momentum the Pirates created on Wednesday night did not carry over into Thursday afternoon. The Dodgers scratched their starter and sent a franchise-record nine pitchers to the mound, but the Bucs could not capitalize in an 8-7 loss at PNC Park that continued several troubling trends.
The Pirates have lost 14 of their past 19 games. They have not won consecutive games in three weeks. They have lost each of their past six series. And as they left for Chicago on Thursday night, they were in danger of falling below .500 for the first time this season on Friday afternoon against the Cubs.
"That would have been a good series to take," said starter Jameson Taillon, who allowed three runs and struck out seven as the Dodgers ran up his pitch count over five innings. "We had a good opportunity right there."
It seemed like the Pirates' 11-9 win on Wednesday night was a sign of good things to come. Then came the news five minutes before first pitch that Dodgers starter Dennis Santana was sidelined due to right lat soreness. Scrambling for solutions, Los Angeles called on former Pirate Daniel Hudson to start the game.
The Pirates wound up facing a parade of eight Dodgers relievers after Hudson, with the nine pitchers used being a club record in a nine-inning game, a day after Los Angeles used seven relievers. Hudson pitched a perfect first. Lefty Scott Alexander worked a hitless second. Pedro Baez gave up one run in the third and breezed through the fourth. Yimi Garcia stranded two runners in the fifth.
"It kind of throws you for a loop. Didn't expect it," left fielder Corey Dickerson said. "But you've still got to go out there and compete and just do your best and play baseball. It was tough, but hopefully going through that, we'll be better next time."
The Bucs eventually broke through as the Dodgers used three relievers in the sixth inning. Starling Marte walked, stole second and scored on Josh Bell's double off right-hander Josh Fields. Left-hander Edward Paredes struck out Corey Dickerson, but Elias Diaz plated Bell with a sacrifice fly off righty Erik Goeddel to pull the Pirates within a run.
Cody Bellinger quickly extended the Dodgers' lead, however, with a two-run homer to left against reliever Tyler Glasnow in the seventh inning. Joc Pederson, who smashed a leadoff homer against Taillon, hit his second of the day off reliever Michael Feliz in the eighth.
Feliz has given up at least one run in each of his past six appearances during a time when the Pirates are searching for sure things in their bullpen. As a group, Pittsburgh's relievers have posted a 4.45 ERA this season, the fifth-highest mark in the National League.
"Everybody's looking for some consistency in their bullpen, and we definitely are," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Our guys have done it. Right now, we're looking for better execution of pitches. You can call it consistency. You can call it pitch execution. Whichever one you choose to go with, it would help our cause, definitely.
"You keep giving them shots. You keep coaching them up. You keep believing in them until we get to a point where we need to make some personnel changes, and I don't believe we're there right now."
Diaz forced the Dodgers to bring in Kenley Jansen, their closer and ninth pitcher of the day, with a three-run homer to left off Brock Stewart in the eighth inning. Francisco Cervelli pulled the Pirates within a run in the ninth with his first career pinch-hit homer off Jansen, who held on to record the save and finish a full day's work by the Dodgers' bullpen.
"That's a strong effort, man," Hurdle said. "They took on a heavy workload and they got out of here with a series win, which doesn't leave a good taste in our mouth. We've got to find a way to hunt the good through all of this and get ready to play tomorrow in Chicago."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Small ball: The Dodgers did in the Pirates' bullpen with a pair of two-run homers, but Taillon was challenged by the patience and persistence of Los Angeles' deep lineup. Breyvic Valera dropped a squeeze bunt with one out in the fourth inning to drive in Bellinger and break a 1-1 tie. The Dodgers took a 3-1 lead in the fifth when Matt Kemp, with one out and runners on the corners, beat out a double-play grounder that allowed Pederson to score.
"Kemp's a veteran now, running out a ground ball there that could have been an inning-ending double play," Taillon said. "Those are little things that really good teams do."
Even though he had some of his best stuff of the season -- as evidenced by his seven strikeouts, 11 swinging strikes and 17 called strikes -- it took Taillon 92 pitches to grind through five innings.
"They made me work. A lot of foul balls on good pitches, a lot of takes on good pitches, a lot of laying off good pitches," Taillon said. " I can't say it enough. Deep lineup. They were making me work, putting together really, really tough ABs."
The Pirates' last series win came on May 15-16, when they swept a two-game set against the White Sox at PNC Park. They have not won consecutive games since May 15-17, when they followed that White Sox series with a win over the Padres. Seven of their 14 losses since then have been by one or two runs.
HE SAID IT
"We're trying to have fun in here. I'm glad that we built such a cushion early on. We've just got to play better baseball. I think we'll be fine."
-- Dickerson, on the Pirates falling to .500 after a strong start to the season
"That was crazy that Huddy had to get called upon to start there, a 12:35 game. Good thing he was out for the anthem."
-- Taillon, on former teammate Hudson making his first start since 2015 on late notice
The Pirates will begin a weekend series of day games at 2:20 p.m. ET on Friday at Wrigley Field. Chad Kuhl, coming off three straight quality starts, will pitch the opener against Cubs lefty Mike Montgomery. Kuhl held the Cubs to one run on four hits over six innings on May 28.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.