Bucs keep Dodgers' celebration on ice
Error in second opens door to four unearned runs in rout
PITTSBURGH -- The Dodgers hauled their league-best record and those cases of chilled champagne west to San Diego on Monday after the Pirates canceled another division-clinching party with an 11-1 rout and a career day at the plate from former Dodgers player Andy LaRoche.
"We'd give the Bad News Bears a run for their money," said manager Joe Torre, whose club missed a second shot at clinching a second consecutive NL West title. "I'd like to say our chances of clinching are good, but if we keep playing like we did today, I can't promise anybody anything except we're going to the playoffs.
"I'm disappointed," Torre continued. "Part of my job is motivation. But as I've said before, at this point, you don't have to tell anybody anything. There's nothing I can say that would make a difference. That's just fact. We still have more to accomplish."
LaRoche -- a one-time top prospect who became expendable when Casey Blake was acquired and was dealt as part of the three-team trade that brought Manny Ramirez to Los Angeles -- went 5-for-5 with two homers, two doubles and six RBIs. Over the four-game series, he was 10-for-18 with three homers, three doubles, eight RBIs and seven runs scored. In 62 games with the Dodgers, he hit three homers with 16 RBIs.
"It just happened to be against the Dodgers," said LaRoche. "Some of them were laughing at me about it. It was great. It was a great way to finish the season for us at home."
With the Dodgers' magic number at one with five games to play, the division clinching isn't as much at risk -- after three losses in four games to the last-place Pirates -- as the home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, which is determined by the best overall record. The Dodgers are 93-64, so their magic number for home-field advantage is four.
"It's always dangerous when you play these teams," Torre said of the Pirates. "Their record tells you you should beat them. But these types of teams, you're not comfortable. Especially when you're not pitching well. You have to play your game. Do what you do, and if you don't do it well enough, I don't care who the team is across the field, they'll take advantage.
Torre said he couldn't explain why his club didn't play its game.
"A lot of stuff you can't explain," he said. "You're looking for that answer and I can't give it to you."
Maybe the Dodgers just assumed the Pirates would be no more difficult to beat than when Pittsburgh was swept three games in Los Angeles earlier this month. But the Pirates were fired up, taking offense to a comment after that series by Torre about how winning two low-scoring, close games in that series would be "good practice" if the Dodgers advanced to the postseason and played close games against top pitching.
Pirates players grabbed the comment and made it motive for revenge.
'It was like, 'Y'all can clinch somewhere else. We don't want you clinching here,'" said Andrew McCutchen. "It was just more about us battling. We executed. We got some wins."
In truth, the three losses here had a lot more to do with what the Dodgers didn't do than what the Pirates did.
As Torre pointed out, Monday's loss was about the pitching, specifically starter Hiroki Kuroda, who was charged with seven runs in four innings. Although four of the runs were unearned, Kuroda was battered for eight hits, four of them for extra bases, including back-to-back homers by LaRoche and Garrett Jones.
"I really didn't have my stuff. I couldn't adjust during the game," said Kuroda, who allowed Washington two unearned runs in six innings in his previous start. "I really didn't have anything, especially my slider. [Pitching coach Rick] Honeycutt pointed out an adjustment and I still couldn't figure out the way I wanted to throw."
And the Dodgers continued the sloppy play that cost them Sunday's game. Mark Loretta, filling in at third base for injured infielders Casey Blake and Ronnie Belliard, opened the five-run second inning with an error. Three Dodgers -- Orlando Hudson, Loretta and Matt Kemp -- were erased on the basepaths in the first three innings.
"The first couple innings our baserunning was terrible," said Torre. "I have no excuse for it."
Then Pirates starter Zach Duke shut down a makeshift lineup that was also missing Manny Ramirez, sitting out a second consecutive game with a tight hamstring, although he said on his way out of the clubhouse that he'd play in San Diego. Duke, who retired 14 consecutive batters at one point, was prevented from a complete game only by his manager, John Russell, who removed him to a chorus of boos with one out remaining and a 10-run lead.
"They just flat-out beat us," said Hudson. "Even the game we won we had to fight. Ain't no excuses."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.