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Pirates' Sanchez shows fiery side in Dodgers outing

| Sunday, April 7, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Pirates starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez comes out of the game against the Dodgers in the sixth inning on Friday, April 5, 2013, in Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES — It's not often an at-bat by a pitcher is a statement moment, especially when it ends with a strikeout. But a simple, three-pitch whiff by Pirates left-hander Jonathan Sanchez spoke to the way he approaches the game.

The Pirates trailed the Los Angeles Dodgers, 1-0, in the sixth inning late Friday night. There was one out and nobody on when Sanchez stepped in against righty Zack Greinke, a former Cy Young winner and one of the plums of last winter's free-agent market.

Greinke didn't try to overpower Sanchez with fastballs down the middle. It was curveball, curveball, changeup, and down went Sanchez.

“That's some respect,” Sanchez said. “He threw me that changeup, and I was like, ‘Oh, come on.' ”

Perhaps Greinke wasn't really worried about Sanchez jacking one out of the park. Even so, Sanchez reacted as if he believed he could do it.

“He came back (to the dugout) talking to himself,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He was disappointed he didn't make something happen. I like the fact that his fire is lit.”

Hurdle smiled.

“I know this about him from the short peek that we've had at him,” Hurdle said. “There's a very fierce competitor inside him. He's very quiet, very soft spoken, but he takes everything serious. He even takes his at-bats serious.”

The Pirates went on to lose, 3-0. Although Sanchez gave up all three runs, he wasn't the culprit. Blame a lifeless offense, which mustered only two singles and a walk against Greinke and three relievers.

“It's been the same thing (in each of) the first four games of the season,” Hurdle said.

Good pitching, good defense, lousy hitting.

The Pirates haven't won at Dodger Stadium since Sept. 15, 2011.

The Dodgers took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on Andre Ethier's homer. On a 2-2 count, Sanchez tried to heave a 91-mph four-seamer up in the zone past Ethier. The ball landed about a dozen rows up in the right-field bleachers.

Sanchez (0-1) did a decent job in his Pirates debut. He worked five-plus innings, allowed three runs on six hits and struck out four.

“I felt pretty good,” Sanchez said in a voice barely above a whisper. “I was aggressive, tried to throw strikes and make the hitters swing the bat.”

The Dodgers had runners on the corners with two outs in the fifth, and Sanchez got Carl Crawford to chase a slider out of the zone for an inning-ending strikeout.

“His fastball was live,” Hurdle said. “There was good finish to it. We wanted to establish his fastball early, get in a good rhythm, then go to the other stuff.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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