Torre sees Saito let it get away
Closer allows go-ahead, three-run homer to Pirates in the ninth
LOS ANGELES -- What manager Joe Torre referred to as a good all-round effort still ended in defeat, as Takashi Saito gave up a two-out, three-run homer to Nate McLouth in the ninth inning as the Pirates defeated the Dodgers, 6-4, Monday night before 37,334.
As Torre has said repeatedly, a lot of what is happening now is about discovering what kind of players he has, and what type of team they make up, and this night, and in fact the last few games, will go a long way to making those determinations.
He had a starter in right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who, while not as sharp as he was in his debut, hung tough, pitching and hitting well enough to have won. He had a slumping star who had his first strong game at the plate, and he had an entire team that battled throughout and will have to learn how to cope with a devastating ninth-inning loss.
Kuroda started strong, retiring the side on 10 pitches, but then seemed to lose his control, allowing the Pirates to jump to a 2-0 lead in the second inning on Jose Bautista's first home run of the season.
"He had good stuff, he just wasn't locating it as well as he had in his first two starts," Torre said. "He had trouble throwing the ball where he wanted to."
The Dodgers got a break in the second when Russell Martin singled off of Pirates starter Zach Duke, then advanced around the bases on a balk, a passed ball and a groundout by Andruw Jones to cut the score to 2-1.
Jones, who had what Torre considers his best at-bats of the season, lined a triple off the right-center wall to start the fifth, coming home to tie the game on Kuroda's double, his first hit in the Major Leagues.
"Today was a good day for Andruw," Torre said. "He used the middle of the field, he looked like he was seeing the ball better. He had good at-bats. He didn't seem as edgy."
"I've been working things mentally, and in the cage," Jones said. "You have to learn to be patient and relaxed and not try to do to much. Not try to get four hits in one at-bat."
After giving back the lead in the top of the sixth, the Dodgers immediately fought back with two runs of their own in the bottom of the sixth.
At that point the Dodgers turned the lead, and the game, over to the bullpen.
"I thought Kuroda didn't have as good as stuff as he had last time," said Torre, "but he battled and put us in a position to win."
Scott Proctor and Joe Beimel took care of the seventh, before handing the game to Jonathan Broxton and Saito.
"Ninth inning, one-run lead, you bring in Sammy, and there's nothing else you can really do but put your hands in your pocket," Torre said, adding, "Actually you stop managing when you bring in Broxton in the eighth."
It almost worked as they were one out away from the victory, when McLouth extended his hitting streak to 13.
While it might not have worked out Monday night, there was no second-guessing from Torre.
"Give me a one-run lead and Broxton and Sammy, and I'll take my chances every time."
While Torre obviously wasn't happy with the result, he did think that it was an important step toward learning about what kind of club he has.
"It's tough, but it's what makes a ballclub a better ballclub," he said. "I'm a firm believer that the failures that happen work towards making you a better team, if you're going to be a better team."
As to whether they're going to be a better team, Torre isn't ready to say, but he isn't ready to hit the panic button either.
"We're trying to find out our personnel, and we've certainly been tested quite a bit early in the season playing some tough games, coming up on the short end," he said. "I'm not saying I'm glad that we're three games under [.500]," he went on, "but we're having good at-bats, we're playing with a lot of energy."
As long as Torre continues to see improvement and effort, he's willing to be patient.
"If I see that stop happening," he cautioned, "then I'll have to address it."
Glenn Rabney is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.