Greinke, Dodgers blank struggling Pirates
LOS ANGELES — It took 107 plate appearances over four games, but the Los Angeles Dodgers finally got a home run from somebody other than pitcher Clayton Kershaw.
Andre Ethier hit a solo homer in the second inning Friday, which proved to be all the offense the Dodgers needed to beat the Pirates, 3-0.
Kershaw went deep on Opening Day, when he also tossed a shutout against the San Francisco Giants. But the big guns in the lineup — the guys who account for much of L.A.'s beefy $230 million payroll — have been mostly silent so far.
The Pirates know the feeling. They still haven't homered this year — 127 punchless plate appearances and counting.
"It's been the same thing (in each of) the first four games of the season," manager Clint Hurdle said.
Against any pitcher not named Carlos Marmol, the Pirates have seemed helpless. Three of their six runs this year have been scored off the Chicago Cubs' combustible closer.
Friday, the Pirates scrounged up just two hits, both singles, and a walk.
Maybe it's something about Dodger Stadium. The Pirates haven't won here since Sept. 15, 2011, and they've scored more than three runs just once in their past 13 games in Los Angeles.
On a 2-2 count, Pirates left-hander Jonathan Sanchez tried to get a 91-mph four-seamer up in the zone past Ethier. The ball landed about a dozen rows up in the right-field bleachers.
Overall, Sanchez (0-1) did a decent job in his Pirates debut. He worked five-plus innings, gave up three runs on six hits and struck out four.
"I felt pretty good," Sanchez said. "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.
Control can be a bugaboo for Sanchez, but he did not issue a walk through the first five innings. However, Mark Ellis worked a free pass leading off the sixth, and Kemp followed with an RBI double — his first hit of the season.
Adrian Gonzalez roped a double into the right-field corner. That drove in Kemp and knocked Sanchez out of the game.
The Pirates weren't able to do anything against Dodgers starter Zack Greinke (1-0), who tossed 6.1 scoreless innings and left to a standing ovation.
"We're not in the best place offensively, but that can be compounded when a guy is throwing strikes and he's giving you four good pitches," Hurdle said.
The Dodgers signed Greinke to a six-year, $147 million contract in December. A sore elbow forced him to be shut down for three weeks in early March. After getting an injection of platelet-rich plasma, Greinke returned in time to make two more spring training starts. Still, until his debut Friday, no one was sure how his elbow would respond.
When he's healthy, Greinke is one of the best in the business. The right-hander won the Cy Young Award in 2009. He's had a sub-4.00 ERA in five of the past six seasons and has racked up 200 strikeouts in three of the past four years.
Greinke retired the first five batters he faced, then Garrett Jones lined a hard single that caromed off second baseman Mark Ellis into shallow right field.
After that, Greinke bore down with his curveball and set down the next 14 batters. At one point, he struck out four in a row.
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