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Pirates can't get the offense going again in loss to Dodgers

| Sunday, April 7, 2013, 12:24 a.m.
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Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett pitches in the first inning against the Dodgers on Saturday, April 6, 2013, in Los Angeles.
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The Pirates' Gaby Sanchez strikes out swinging to end the fourth inning as Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis tries to handle the pitch during on Saturday, April 6, 2013 in Los Angeles.
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The Dodgers' Carl Crawford scores on a single to left field by Mark Ellis, as Pirates catcher Russell Martin waits for the ball in the third inning on Saturday, April 6, 2013, in Los Angeles.
The Dodgers' Carl Crawford steals second base as Pirates second baseman Neil Walker looks on in the first inning on Saturday, April 6, 2013, in Los Angeles.
Pirates starter A.J. Burnett pitches to the Dodgers in the first inning on Saturday, April 6, 2013, in Los Angeles.
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The Dodgers' Mark Ellis hits a single to left field to drive in Carl Crawford #25 from second base in the third inning against the Pirates on Saturday, April 6, 2013, in Los Angeles.
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LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 06: Jose Tabata #31 of the Pittsburgh Pirates can't make the catch on a foul ball hit by Mark Ellis #14 of the Los Angeles Dodgers (not in photo) in the fifth inning during the MLB game at Dodger Stadium on April 6, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
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Pirates catcher Russell Martin and pitcher A.J. Burnett confer on the mound in the third inning against the Dodgers on Saturday, April 6, 2013, in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers defeated the Pirates, 1-0.
Pirates right fielder Jose Tabata tries for a foul fly hit by the Dodgers' Mark Ellis in the fifth inning on Saturday, April 6, 2013, in Los Angeles.
Pirates starter A.J. Burnett watches from the dugout after coming out of the game in the sixth inning against the Dodgers on Saturday, April 6, 2013, in Los Angeles. The Dodgers won, 1-0.
Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez tags out the Pirates' Russell Martin, caught off first base, in the seventh inning on Saturday, April 6, 2013, in Los Angeles.
The Dodgers' Andre Ethier (right) is out at second and Pirates second baseman Neil Walker (left) gets Mark Ellis at first in a fourth-inning double play on Saturday, April 6, 2013, in Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES — You wanted a pitching duel? Done.

You wanted a Pirates victory, too? Well ...

A pair of aces had their way with two struggling lineups Saturday night at Dodger Stadium. Pirates right-hander A.J. Burnett was darn good, but Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw was better.

The Dodgers got an RBI single from Mark Ellis in the third inning, and Kershaw made sure it stood up for a 1-0 victory.

“Pitchers' duel,” Burnett said. “I was going up against one of the best. I just tried to do what that kid (Kershaw) was doing. It was my first time pitching against him, first time really seeing him. It fires me up to be in a game like that.”

Kershaw (2-0) extended his scoreless inning streak to 16. In two starts this year, he has yet to allow a runner to reach third base. Against the Pirates, Kershaw yielded two hits in seven innings and got nine strikeouts.

As he was on Opening Day, Burnett (0-2) was burned by the Pirates' impotent bats. Burnett worked 5 13 innings against the Dodgers, allowed one run on four hits and struck out nine.

“We're not finding hits,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “A well-played game, but somebody wins and somebody loses.”

Starling Marte dumped Kershaw's first pitch of the game into shallow center field for a single. Neil Walker, taking a cue from hitting coach Jay Bell's small-ball playbook, bunted the next pitch and sacrificed Marte to second.

The Pirates were in business.

Oh, no they weren't.

Andrew McCutchen hit a roller to shortstop Justin Sellers. Inexplicably, Marte broke for third base and was an easy out. Threat defused. Gaby Sanchez flew out to right field. Inning over.

“That was a bad decision,” Hurdle said of Marte's baserunning gaffe. “Those are mistakes you don't want to make when you're not swinging the bat (well), but we made them. Who knows what would've happened, but they didn't help our cause.”

To make matters worse, Kershaw threw only six pitches — total. Barely broke a sweat.

Burnett began the bottom of the first inning by issuing a five-pitch walk to Dodgers leadoff hitter Carl Crawford, who then stole second base. Uh-oh.

No problem. Burnett unleashed his wicked curveball and struck out Mark Ellis, Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez.

And so it began.

Sanchez's fly-out began a string of 15 batters who walked to the plate against Kershaw, turned around and sat back down. In that stretch, Kershaw racked up nine strikeouts.

Marte broke the spell in the sixth by legging out an infield single. It was a very close play, and the crowd of 39,446 grumbled at umpire Dan Iassogna's safe call.

Because replay review in baseball remains wishful thinking, Marte became the first Pirate to collect two hits of any kind in a game this season. Really. That's how bad things have been.

The Pirates are the only team in the majors without a home run. They rank last in the National League in runs, team batting average, hits, total bases, RBI and slugging percentage.

The Dodgers' offense hasn't been much better, but they were able to break through against Burnett in the third inning. With two outs, Crawford singled to short and stole second. Ellis lined a full-count fastball into left field for an RBI single.

Both of Crawford's stolen bases came on curveballs. It could be the Dodgers are so familiar with Russell — he was their catcher from 2006-10 — they were able to nab a sign or two. After Burnett and Martin conferred on the mound, Martin began angling his body toward third base, so a runner on first couldn't see the sign as easily.

Burnett looked to be in trouble in the fourth when Gonzalez walked and Andre Ethier lined a single to right. But A.J. Ellis grounded into a double play and Luis Cruz struck out.

The Dodgers loaded the bases with one out in the sixth. But reliever Jared Hughes wiggled free by getting Cruz to pop up and Sellers to ground into a fielder's choice.

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