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

Rob Biertempfel
| Sunday, April 7, 2013, 12:24 a.m.

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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