PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — After Pirates reliever Jason Grilli struck out the first two batters of the eighth inning, few probably expected he’d have trouble recording the third and final out.
Unfortunately, the third batter to the plate was Andre Ethier, who had as many late-inning heroics as any player in Major League Baseball last year. He followed suit Tuesday, driving a 2-1 slider high and over the right field wall to break open a tie game and give Los Angeles a 2-1 lead.
“I’m not going to beat myself up, because I know I threw the ball outstanding today,” Grilli said. “I made one bad pitch — not a terrible pitch. It got more of the plate than I wanted it to. One inch down, it changes everything.”
Pittsburgh (2-2) went down in order in the top of the ninth and lost their second game of the season — the fourth straight one-run game to start the season.
“Great ball right out of the chute. Four great games,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said, according to the team’s official website. “To play four one-run games out of the blocks, against three Cy Young Award winners, can’t ask for more.”
The Ethier homer spoiled what was an otherwise positive pitching performance for the Pirates. Starting pitcher Kevin Correia pitched six innings, allowing just one run on four hits. He walked two and struck out three, tossing 82 pitches on the afternoon.
“I knew that (this) was gonna be close, and against a Cy Young Award winner, I’d have to pitch well to give us any chance to win,” Correia said.
“This is something we’re gonna have to get used to. It’s what we did last year, when we were winning: Keep it close, and find a way to grind it out in the end.”
Reliever Juan Cruz came on in the eighth and allowed two hits but worked his way out of a two-on, two-out situation for a scoreless inning.
Los Angeles (4-1) starter Clayton Kershaw was just a hair more impressive. He pitched seven innings, allowing one run on four hits while striking out seven.
The Dodgers grabbed a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning when Matt Kemp drove in Dee Gordon on a groundout. The Pirates struggled to get baserunners against Kershaw until the seventh, when first baseman Matt Hague drove in left fielder Alex Presely to tie the game, 1-1.
That score didn’t hold long, as Ethier homered an inning later for the eventual winning run.
“We had opportunities to score runs, and we didn’t do it,” Hurdle said. “At this level, it usually causes you some angst in you don’t cash in the opportunities presented to you. We’re still looking for that timely hit to prolong an inning.”
Chris Gates | Bucs Blog