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Slumping Pirates drop opener vs. hot Dodgers

With loss, Pittsburgh falls to .500 for first time this season
June 5, 2018

PITTSBURGH -- The slumping Pirates and streaking Dodgers did not break stride on Tuesday night. Unable to dent starter Thomas Stripling or subdue the Dodgers' lineup, Pittsburgh fell to .500 for the first time this season with a 5-0 loss at PNC Park, the Bucs' 13th defeat in their last

PITTSBURGH -- The slumping Pirates and streaking Dodgers did not break stride on Tuesday night. Unable to dent starter Thomas Stripling or subdue the Dodgers' lineup, Pittsburgh fell to .500 for the first time this season with a 5-0 loss at PNC Park, the Bucs' 13th defeat in their last 17 games.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, won for the 14th time in 18 games and climbed back to .500 for the first time since April 24. Pirates first baseman Josh Bell noticed their records on the scoreboard during Tuesday's game, each approaching the break-even point from opposite directions.
"I know every game's important, but over the course of the season, there are going to be ups and downs. This is just a rut that we're in," Bell said. "Hopefully we can turn it around. If it's not tomorrow, then it's definitely going to be soon."
It didn't happen Tuesday night in part because of Stripling, who held the Pirates scoreless for five innings and struck out seven in his fourth straight victory.
Stripling did not overpower hitters, as his fastball maxed out at 93.2 mph on the night. But his high-spin four-seam fastball, complemented by a deep arsenal of offspeed offerings, stifled Pittsburgh's struggling lineup. The Bucs swung and missed on eight of Stripling's 42 four-seamers, according to Statcast™, and took nine for called strikes.
"We weren't able to cover the ball when it was up in the zone," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "It was basically the elevated fastball up in the zone, hand-high, that we couldn't take care of."
The nearly perfect start to Joe Musgrove's Pirates career ended on Tuesday as the right-hander allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits, including two home runs. A familiar foe hit the Dodgers' first homer. Center fielder Joc Pederson, who homered twice off Musgrove in the World Series last fall, smashed a two-run shot to right field in the second inning to give Los Angeles a lead.

Yasiel Puig padded the Dodgers' lead with a solo homer to center in the fourth inning, and Cody Bellinger added a solo blast to center off reliever Tyler Glasnow in the sixth.
"It was one of these nights where I was battling constantly," Musgrove said. "I didn't feel like my stuff was very sharp tonight. I didn't feel I had much life on it. I was trying to compete the best I could. I think where the night went wrong was not winning the at-bats I was supposed to win."
The Pirates didn't help themselves with mistakes in the field and on the bases.
Musgrove gave up a pair of singles to begin the third inning before a costly error by shortstop Sean Rodriguez -- his third in the last five games -- led to another run. With runners on first and second, Musgrove fired a pickoff attempt to second base that bounced off Rodriguez's glove and into center field as both runners advanced. Chris Taylor then easily scored from third on Matt Kemp's sacrifice fly to left.
With two on and one out in the eighth inning, Francisco Cervelli flied out to center field. Adam Frazier, who walked as a pinch-hitter, tried to tag up and take third base but ran into the inning's final out.

"It's not a play to make at that point in time, and he's got enough time in up here that he's the first one to tell you that," Hurdle said. "That's not a play we need to be making right there."
Left loaded: The Pirates' best chance to pull themselves back in the game came in the fifth. Corey Dickerson singled and Colin Moran reached on an error by Taylor, but Gregory Polanco struck out and Rodriguez popped out to put two outs on the board. Starling Marte loaded the bases with a pinch-hit single to right, but Josh Harrison swung at the first pitch he saw from Stripling and flied out to left field.

"We had an opportunity, didn't get it done," Hurdle said. "Throw a ball in the gap right there, it'd be nice. Unfortunately, Harrison flew out to left field. Marte gave us a good at-bat. Needed a hit right there that could have pushed the inning and got us back into it."
The Pirates must win the next two games to avoid falling to 0-6 in their last six series. Pittsburgh has dropped each of its last five series since taking a two-game set from the White Sox on May 15-16. The Bucs went 10-3-1 in their first 14 series of the season.
"That's pitching, man. You're not always going to have your best stuff, and you've got to find out how to really pitch. I've done that. I did that in my last start. I had plenty of jams I was in. I tried to work my way out of them. But it just comes down to execution, and it wasn't really there tonight." -- Musgrove, on losing Tuesday after allowing one run over 14 innings in his first two starts for the Pirates
The Pirates removed shortstop Jordy Mercer from the starting lineup only minutes before Musgrove's first pitch due to flu-like symptoms. Pittsburgh replaced Mercer with Rodriguez, who started at shortstop and batted eighth. Cervelli and Harrison have recently missed time due to flu-like symptoms as well.
Mercer took the field for pregame warmups, Hurdle said, but couldn't complete his routine. The Pirates substituted in Rodriguez about five minutes before the clubs exchanged lineup cards at home plate.
Right-hander Trevor Williams, who has allowed 13 runs in 15 innings over his last three starts, will try to get back on track Wednesday night against the Dodgers at PNC Park. Williams is 3-2 with a 3.67 ERA in six home starts this season. He will face left-hander Caleb Ferguson, making his Major League debut. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET.

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