Pirates surrender 7th-inning lead, fall to Dodgers in 12
A short-handed bullpen forced the Pirates into tough spots and tougher choices on Monday.
The outcome was a 6-5 loss against the Los Angeles Dodgers that was sealed when Yasiel Puig led off the 12th inning with a home run.
Going into the game, the Pirates knew they didn't have closer Felipe Rivero, who threw 30 pitches over the previous two games.
George Kontos was unable to pitch on Sunday due to tightness in his groin. Kontos tested it before Monday's game and initially said he felt fine, but that changed.
"This was not an oversight by (management) not bringing up arms," manager Clint Hurdle insisted. "The wild card was one guy (Kontos) going down who we anticipated using."
With the Pirates down by two men in extra innings, Joaquin Benoit worked two innings for just the third time in 222 outings since 2014. Benoit, who turned 40 last month, threw a season-high 38 pitches.
Benoit walked four and threw a wild pitch, but did not allow a run.
Rookie Dovydas Neverauskas gave up Puig's decisive homer. Neverauskas threw three games in a row for the first time in his pro career.
"That was the second-to-last thing I wanted to put into play tonight," Hurdle said. "The next one would have been the guy you saw warming up in the 12th."
That was Jameson Taillon, who is scheduled to start on Tuesday. Taillon got hot in the bullpen, but said he expects he'll be able to go on Tuesday.
Either way, the Pirates will make roster moves on Tuesday to bolster their bullpen. Kontos' status is in limbo and Benoit most likely will need a day or two to recover. A.J. Schugel has pitched in five of the past seven games.
The Pirates blew an early 3-0 lead. They fell behind by two runs when Curtis Granderson hit a grand slam off starter Gerrit Cole in the seventh inning.
Cole faced six batters and got just one out in the seventh. Hurdle said his decision to keep Cole in the game that long was "probably, a little bit" influenced by the state of the bullpen.
"I thought he still had pitches (in him). And he's our ace," Hurdle said. "I still thought he was best-equipped to get out of that situation. I had all the confidence in the world in Gerrit. We got a wrong result there, and that's on me."
Cole carried a shutout into the seventh inning after escaping a pair bases-loaded jams. He still had plenty of zip on his fastball, but it was getting fatter over the middle of the plate.
With one out and runners on the corners, Corey Seager lined an RBI single to make it 3-1. Justin Turner's sharp single to left loaded the bases.
That brought up Granderson, a left-handed batter. With Wade LeBlanc on the disabled list and Steven Brault back at Triple-A Indianapolis, Rivero is the only lefty in the bullpen.
"We have right-handers (relievers) who can get left-handers out," Hurdle said.
Cole fell behind 2-1 against Granderson, then fired his 112th pitch of the night, an 88 mph slider. The ball soared over the center field wall to give the Dodgers a 5-3 lead.
"In hindsight, I probably should have challenged him (with a fastball)," Cole said. "I'm trying to create a ground ball with the slider, but … you know, whatever."
The crowd of 19,094 booed when Hurdle finally emerged to remove Cole.
"I wasn't out of gas," Cole said. "I just made 2 1/2 mistakes in the seventh inning."
In the eighth, Dodgers reliever Pedro Baez gave up Josh Harrison's one-out RBI double, then walked the bases loaded. Harrison scored on Josh Bell's fielder's choice grounder to make it 5-5.
Neverauskas replaced Benoit to start the 12th. Puig homered into the Dodgers bullpen on a 1-0 pitch.
The Pirates managed only five hits in six innings against left-hander Alex Wood, but three of them were homers. Jose Osuna, Sean Rodriguez and Josh Harrison went deep to make it 3-0 after three.
Wood went into the game averaging 0.56 homers allowed per nine innings, the third-best rate in the majors.
Osuna and Rodriguez went deep four pitches apart in the second inning. It was the fourth this season the Pirates hit back-to-back homers.