Dodgers don't catch breaks, or key hit
Kemp misplays ball for game's only runs in fifth straight loss
LOS ANGELES -- The slumping Dodgers' first game back from a nine-game road trip to forget began and ended with the same tone: Matt Kemp defending himself.
Kemp, criticized by general manager Ned Colletti this week, misplayed a shallow liner into center field in the first inning that led to a two-run triple, the only runs scored in a 2-0 Pirates victory Thursday night.
"I should've caught the ball," Kemp said. "That was one of those in-between hops, you know. Should've went and tried to catch it or backed off of it and let one run score and kept the other run at third base." Everything gets scrutinized more closely in a slump, Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. The Dodgers (8-14) are on a five-game skid for the first time since last October.
"Every little thing will show up with this particular game tonight," Torre said. "The game was close, we'll think of every little opportunity we had."
Clayton Kershaw, as brilliant at Dodger Stadium as the Dodgers lineup is timid behind him, put the rough first inning aside and went 6 1/3 innings. Kershaw (1-1) struck out seven, allowed three hits and walked four.
There were strong winds in the stadium at first pitch, but Kershaw said that had nothing to do with the two walks he issued to Lastings Milledge and Andy LaRoche to start the game, prompting a coaching visit 15 pitches in.
Kershaw brought himself nearly out of the jam with strikeouts of Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones to bring up Ryan Doumit. On a 1-0 pitch, Doumit hit a liner into center field that Kemp charged in an attempt to catch but did not dive for, and the ball one-hopped him. Kemp tried to backhand it without putting his body in front of the ball and he missed it, giving the ball a clear path to the wall. Both runners scored and Doumit ended up on third. A groundout ended the inning.
"It's just one of those things, can't give up those two runs early," Kershaw said. "It's frustrating even more. They got one hit, they got two runs off that."
"I give him a lot of credit," Torre said. "He throws 30-something pitches in the first and goes into the seventh inning."
Entering Thursday, the Dodgers were averaging just 1.62 runs per game behind Kershaw at Dodger Stadium since Aug. 1. That's the second lowest in the big leagues besides the Braves' paltry support of Tim Hudson at 1.41 runs per game.
The Dodgers left seven men on base, were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and let Pirates spot starter Brian Burres (1-1) off the hook when they had at least one runner in scoring position in the third through sixth innings. Burres, a left-hander, was called up Sunday.
Without Manny Ramirez and Rafael Furcal both injured, the Dodgers managed just four hits on the night.
"Our offense is good, we've shown it for the first two weeks of the season," Kershaw said. "It's part of baseball. It's a long season, there's going to be games where you don't' score some runs. It's just one of those things. Every team goes through it at some point."
A Russell Martin groundout left runners on the corners for the Dodgers in the third inning. Jamey Carroll had the bases loaded in the fourth inning and grounded into a forceout. Blake DeWitt was left on second base after a leadoff double in the fifth inning, and Carroll left two more runners in scoring position in the sixth inning. Carroll, 0-for-3, is batting .212.
"He's a backup player for us and right now he's forced into playing every day," Torre said. "He's done a good job for us offensively getting on base, but he's not really a run producer."
DeWitt, 2-for-3, was the only Dodger with multiple hits.
Burres went 5 1/3 innings and gave way to Jack Taschner, another southpaw the Dodgers couldn't solve. The Dodgers went down in order against fill-in closer Evan Meek in the ninth.
Whether the wind hurt both teams outfielders -- Pirates right fielder Garrett Jones had a misplay of his own -- it probably saved the Dodgers a run in the fifth inning, when LaRoche took Kershaw to the left-center-field warning track.
Kershaw also didn't help the Dodgers' offense on the basepaths. He attempted to steal second base on a ball in the dirt in the third inning, making the second out with a runner on third base.
Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.