The Dodgers found themselves in a familiar position on Monday morning, but this time managed to crawl out of an early hole, escaping PNC Park with one victory in their ledger, 5-4 over the Pirates in the finale of their four-game wraparound series.
Scott Kazmir continued his first-inning struggles, walking three and allowing four runs, the big blow a two-run single by Eric Kratz, who entered Monday just 3-for-55 (.055) on the season between Houston and Pittsburgh.
Kazmir has allowed 16 first-inning runs in his 16 starts in 2016, and this one not only put him looking at an abbreviated start thanks to a whopping 40 pitches in the inning, but the Dodgers were staring down the barrel of a four-game sweep.
The first inning wasn't just cruel on the pitching side for the Dodgers. Trayce Thompson, who was 0-for-15 with eight strikeouts last week, got what appeared to be a break when his pop fly to shallow left field somehow fell between shortstop Jordy Mercer and left fielder Starling Marte. But with the seemingly sure out, Kiké Hernandez at first base had to make sure he could make it back to first base if the ball was caught, so he was too far away from second base and easily thrown out on a force play at second base.
Thompson did walk and score on Monday, but saw hit hitless streak extend to 0-for-19.
The Dodgers chipped away at their third early four-run deficit in four days in Pittsburgh thanks to a triple to lead off the third inning by shortstop Chris Taylor in is first at-bat as a Dodger. Justin Turner hit a fly ball to score Taylor for his 22nd RBI of the month.
Turner, who also doubled in the fifth, now has 22 RBI in June, the most RBI in a single month by a Dodger since Adrian Gonzalez drove in 24 in March/April 2014. There are three more games remaining in the month. Turner had 16 total RBI in April and May.
While batting in the top of the ninth inning Turner appeared to injure himself, and was removed from the game in the bottom of the inning, with Taylor playing the final defensive inning at third base.
Justin Turner was removed from the game with a leg cramp.— J.P. Hoornstra (@jphoornstra) June 27, 2016
Kazmir got pitcher Francisco Liriano to end the first inning, then rebounded to retire a total of 12 straight batters before a couple runners reached in the sixth inning. He struck out Matt Joyce to get out of that jam, and needed only 57 pitches to get through his final four innings after the 40-pitch first.
Kazmir was pitching with a lead in that fifth inning, the first lead by the Dodgers during this series, because the Dodgers rallied for four runs of their own in the top of the frame, which started thanks to a walk by Kike Hernandez.
That was the third walk of the game for Hernandez, setting a new career high. In fact, it was the first time he ever walked more than once in the same game.
After Turner's double put runners at second and third inning, Thompson walked to load the bases. Yasiel Puig singled home two to pull the Dodgers within one, and is 8-for-23 (.348) since returning from the disabled list.
In the midst of the four-run fifth inning, Howie Kendrick drove home the tying run with a single, then stole second base without a throw. It was the seventh steal of the year for Kendrick, who hasn't been caught. The rest of the Dodgers have 17 steals and have been caught 14 times, with no other player totaling more than four steals.
Kendrick's steal gave the Dodgers runners at second and third base with two outs, then A.J. Ellis hit a ball to the hole at shortstop and beat the throw from Jordy Mercer on the edge of the grass. It was the second infield hit of the season, which isn't as rare as it sounds.
Among Dodgers with at least 100 plate appearances, AJ Ellis has the highest rate of infield hits per grounders in play.— Daniel Brim (@DanielBrim) June 27, 2016
To make Monday even weirder, at some point in the sixth inning the SportsNet LA broadcast showed Kenley Jansen warming up, an abnormally early time for him to start getting ready. He was throwing for only a short time and didn't enter the game too early, but he did come in to finish the eighth inning.
Jansen struck out Josh Harrison to end the eighth inning, then recorded three outs in the ninth for his third save conversion of longer than an inning in four attempts in 2016. It wasn't easy, of course, with a two-out walk and a stolen base putting the tying run in scoring position with two outs in the ninth, but Jansen was able to finish the job.
The Dodgers tried to rally for insurance runs in the top of the ninth inning, but left the bases loaded. We were a few pitches away from peak weirdness for Monday as Jansen ended the top of the inning in the on-deck circle. Jansen, a switch-hitter, is 1-for-3 with a walk in his major league career, including 1-for-2 with a walk batting left-handed.
The Dodgers move on to Milwaukee for three games against the Brewers beginning Tuesday night at Miller Park. Julio Urias starts the opener, facing the first team to see him a second time. Urias struck out eight in five scoreless innings on June 17 at Dodger Stadium. Milwaukee counters with Chase Anderson.
Home runs: none
WP - Scott Kazmir (6-3): 5 IP, 4 hits, 4 runs, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts
LP - Francisco Liriano (4-8): 4⅓ IP, 4 hits, 5 runs (4 earned runs), 5 walks, 3 strikeouts
Sv - Kenley Jansen (22): 1⅓ IP, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts