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Alarming skid continues for struggling Pirates

| Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012, 10:28 p.m.
Christopher Horner
Pirates pitcher Wandy Rodriguez delivers during the first inning against the Dodgers on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012 at PNC Park. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Christopher Horner
The Dodgers' Mark Ellis scores past Pirates catcher Michael McKenry during the third inning Wednesday August 15, 2012 at PNC Park. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

A players' meeting Wednesday afternoon didn't provide an immediate answer to the Pirates' problems of late, and neither did left-hander Wandy Rodriguez.

Still looking for his first win in a Pirates uniform, Rodriguez (7-12) struggled with command in his fourth start since being acquired from Houston, and the Los Angeles Dodgers won their ninth game in a row against the Pirates, 9-3, at PNC Park.

The Pirates have lost three in a row, six of their last seven and nine of their last 13. They are 3-7 on this homestand heading into Thursday's finale against the Dodgers, and they've fallen seven games below the first-place Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central.

The Bucs also had to play most of the game without their second-leading hitter, second baseman Neil Walker, who left the game in the first inning with a dislocated right pinky finger. He was replaced by Josh Harrison. Pedro Alvarez, who did not start, took Harrison's place at third base.

“I'm going to see a hand specialist (Thursday),” Walker said. “Fortunately there's no break. … I couldn't put a number on it, but I'm very optimistic about a quick return.”

The Pirates could have used his bat against reigning NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw (11-6), who gave up three runs and six hits in eight innings.

Andrew McCutchen hit his 24th homer, which established a career high for the center fielder.

Gaby Sanchez doubled twice off Kershaw and scored a run, but the Pirates had few other opportunities as the left-hander racked up eight strikeouts — four to Alvarez — and didn't issue a walk.

The Dodgers scored quickly on the Pirates and Rodriguez, making it the ninth game in a row in which the Pirates' opponent has scored first. Each of the Dodgers first six hits were singles. Two came in the fourth inning, just before Matt Kemp blasted a two-out, two-run double to right field to make it 4-1. Hanley Ramirez doubled to score Kemp.

“I tried to put the ball where I wanted and threw a good pitch, but they hit the ball soft and base hit, base hit,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez had his first 1-2-3 inning in the fifth but came out of the game after hitting Mark Ellis with two outs in the sixth. He allowed five runs, all earned, and 10 hits with one walk and one strikeout. Rodriguez is 0-5 with a 6.05 ERA in six second-half starts.

“He was just inconsistent with location,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Fastballs are just up more than they have been in the past; the curveball didn't have the bite it's had at times.”

The Dodgers added four runs in the seventh inning off reliever Chris Resop.

The players held a private meeting prior to batting practice Wednesday. Hurdle said it was part of them having ownership over what they do and how they do it.

“There are always a couple individuals that try to take the initiative to get things moving in that direction and you try to get feelings out, thoughts, observations, comments,” Hurdle said.

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at kprice@tribweb.com or 412-320-7980.

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