Two bases-loaded, nobody-out situations in three innings proved one too many for the Dodgers, who fell to the Pirates 5-4 in 10 innings on Friday night at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. a Pedro Alvarez lined a single into right field over a five-man infield to score Jung Ho Kang for the game-winner.
Jim Johnson pitched a scoreless ninth inning on 12 pitches, but began his second inning of work with a four-pitch walk to Kang, followed by a sharp single to left field by Francisco Cervelli. Sean Rodriguez followed with a sacrifice bunt in between the pitchers mound and third base, but both Johnson and Alberto Callaspo thought the other one would field the ball.
Neither one did, which loaded the bases for Alvarez.
The Pirates nearly took the lead in the eighth inning, loading the bases with nobody out. But newly-acquired left-handed reliever Luis Avilan got two ground ball outs from two right-handed batters, then another ground ball from the lefty Gregory Polanco to end the frame.
It wasn't quite the pitching duel we expected with Clayton Kershaw and Gerrit Cole on the mound, but what we got was a close and at times sloppy game between two potential playoff teams in a postseason-type atmosphere in Pittsburgh.
Kershaw's scoreless streak of 37 consecutive scoreless innings was over just one pitch into the game, when Polanco took him deep to right field for a quick 1-0 Pirates lead.
It was just the third home run to lead off a game allowed by Kershaw in his career, joining Jimmy Rollins in 2010 and Chris Denorfia in 2012.
The Dodgers answered in the third inning, when Joc Pederson doubled off near the top of the 21-foot-high right field wall, then advanced to third on a ground out. Rollins walked with two outs, then stole second base without a throw. Howie Kendrick followed with a ground ball between shortstop and third base, fielded on a dive by third baseman Aramis Ramirez. But first baseman Michael Morse couldn't quite keep his foot on the bag when stretching to receive the throw.
Rollins never stopped running and scored all the way from second base, giving Kendrick the ultra-rare two-run infield single.
Kershaw needed only 27 pitches to get through three innings, but the next two frames were a nightmare. The Pirates loaded the bases with nobody out, thanks in part to a double play grounder by Ramirez headed up the middle that a sprawling Kershaw kicked into foul territory near third base for a single. Kershaw nearly got out of the jam with two quick outs, but then walked Chris Stewart to force in a run, the latter on a six-pitch at-bat that saw two laughable strike calls, including one ball dropped by catcher Yasmani Grandal.
Kershaw needed 37 pitches to get through the fourth inning.
After a Pederson walk in the fifth inning and Kershaw hit on the foot by a pitch, Rollins sliced a double down the left field line for a run, giving Kershaw the lead again at 3-2.
But Kershaw's command betrayed him in the bottom of the inning, first hitting Starling Marte on a 2-2 pitch with one out, then grooving a fastball to Andrew McCutchen for a game-tying RBI double. Kershaw then threw a wild pitch allowing McCutchen to advance to third, followed by Ramirez singling through a drawn-in infield for another run and a Pirates lead.
Kershaw ended up pitching six innings, allowing four runs on nine hits with five strikeouts and two walks. The four runs matched Kershaw's total allowed in his previous six starts combined, and were his most allowed in any one start since June 17 against Texas.
With Cole out of the game after 91 pitches in his six innings, the Dodgers rally in the seventh began in the least intimidating way possible, with Carl Crawford reaching with two outs on catchers interference. Crawford then stole second, the Dodgers' second steal of the night, and scored when Rollins double off the top of the wall in right center field to tie the game. A potential go-ahead single by Kendrick was thwarted by a diving stop at third by Ramirez, who threw out Kendrick to end the inning.
Rollins ended up with three hits and a walk, though the Dodgers only managed six hits as a team.
These two clubs are at it again on Saturday afternoon, a 1 p.m. PT start. Mat Latos makes his second start as a Dodger, while left-hander Francisco Liriano takes the mound for the Pirates.
Home run: Gregory Polanco (6)
WP - Antonio Bastardo (4-1): 1 IP, 1 hit, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts
LP - Jim Johnson (2-4): 1+ IP, 2 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 1 strikeout