Dodgers complete sweep of Pirates
By Rob Biertempfel
Published: Sunday, April 7, 2013, 7:15 p.m.
LOS ANGELES — The Pirates hit their first home run Sunday. And, for the first time all weekend, they put a couple of runs on the board against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
So much for the good news.
The Dodgers banged out 11 hits, clobbering pitchers Jeff Locke and Chris Leroux, and eased to a 6-2 victory. The Pirates managed only four hits and have yet to score more than three runs in a game this season.
After being swept in the three-game series, the Pirates (1-5) are off to their worst start since 2006, when they dropped their first six games.
“We've had our opportunities to come through with the big, clutch hit,” hitting coach Jay Bell said. “We haven't quite got there yet.”
Pedro Alvarez went 0 for 4, including three strikeouts. He's hitless in his past 14 at-bats and has been dropped from cleanup to sixth in the batting order.
No. 2 hitter Neil Walker is hitless in his past 15 at-bats, sinking his average to .100 with a .217 on-base percentage. Catcher Russell Martin, stuck in an 0-for-14 funk, was given the day off. Michael McKenry started at catcher and, batting fifth, went 0 for 3.
Manager Clint Hurdle indicated Alvarez, Walker and Martin will be in the lineup the next two days against the Arizona Diamondbacks' right-handed pitchers.
“It's about giving men an opportunity to overcome a challenge,” Hurdle said.
For Alvarez, the challenge always has been greatest against lefty pitchers. He is 0 for 8 against them this season, including four hitless at-bats Sunday against Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu and reliever J.P. Howell.
Hurdle flatly ruled out platooning Alvarez at third base against left-handers.
“No way,” Hurdle said. “He's got to cut his teeth up here. He can hit left-handed pitching; we've just got to get him out there. He's at the point, like a lot of us now, where he's got work to do.”
Starling Marte led off the game with a single off Ryu (1-1). One out later, Andrew McCutchen launched a 1-1 fastball into the left-field seats.
It was the Pirates' first home run in 56 innings going back to the penultimate game of the 2012 season. Until McCutchen's shot, they had been the only team in the majors without one this year.
Marte and McCutchen have combined for 11 hits and five RBI this season. The rest of the team has 10 hits and three RBI.
Before you get too giddy for McCutchen and Marte, consider this: eight of their hits have been singles. The entire team has just four doubles and no triples.
“We're going to hit homers,” Hurdle said. “Extra-base hits are more of our focus now.”
Locke (0-1), making his season debut, held that lead for ... oh, about five minutes.
With one out in the bottom of the first, Nick Punto singled and Matt Kemp doubled. Adrian Gonzalez rolled a single up the middle to tie it, 2-2.
In the bottom of the third, Carl Crawford doubled off the wall in left-center. He went to third on Punto's bunt and scored on Kemp's sacrifice fly to make it 3-2.
“I felt like I did get better as I went on,” said Locke, who went six innings and gave up four runs on eight hits. “It was one of those days when you've got to take what you've got and work with it as best you can.”
Marte began the third with a bunt single but was still standing at first when the inning ended. The Pirates did not get another hit until Jose Tabata's infield single with one out in the seventh.
Ryu struck out six, including the final three batters he faced. He worked 61⁄3 innings and allowed two runs on three hits.
Ryu is the first player to jump from the Korea Baseball Organization to the big leagues.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
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