Brandon League had turned it around. All the way around. Some might not have noticed, intent as they are to boo the very mention of his name, but League had not given up an earned run in 16 consecutive games.
It was a streak that had to come to an end sometime, and unfortunately for him and the Dodgers, it came Thursday night.
League lost his closer’s job last season and finished the year with a 5.30 earned-run average. But after a brief struggle to start the season, had fashioned a 1.32 ERA.
Not on Thursday.
The Dodgers jumped to an early lead with a run in the first inning after Andre Ethier tripled into the right-field corner. For Ethier, that’s two triples in his last seven at-bats. He must think center fielders are supposed to fly. Before that, he had two triples in his last 1,560 at-bats.
Yasiel Puig drove him in with a bloop double. Puig was so unimpressed with his soft hit, at first he stayed at the plate and just watched it lift into right. When he realized it might drop between second baseman Neil Walker and right fielder Josh Harrison, he belatedly turned on his jets and still got a double out of it.
But the Dodgers regained the lead in the bottom of the inning after Justin Turner led off with a single against right-hander Gerrit Cole. For some reason, Manager Don Mattingly had Tim Federowicz lay down a sacrifice bunt with Haren on deck. Haren struck out, but Dee Gordon laced a single up the middle to score Turner.
It remained a 2-1 lead for the Dodgers until the fifth inning when Clint Barmes singled with one out and Cole’s bunt sacrificed him to second. Harrison lined a single to right to score the tying run.
Former Dodgers catcher Russell Martin gave the Pirates their first lead when he hit a solo homer halfway up the left-field pavilion in the sixth inning.
The Dodgers tied the score in the bottom of the sixth after Puig doubled off the center-field wall and Hanley Ramirez -- who was in a .179 (seven for 39) slump -- lined a single into left to score Puig.
But then came the decisive seventh inning. League had been remarkably consistent, but Barmes singled with one out and was sacrificed to second on another Cole bunt. Harrison singled off the glove of a leaping Gordon at second to score Barmes, who took second on Ethier’s throw home. It was the first earned run League had allowed in 23 1/3 innings.
When Walker singled in a run and Andrew McCutchen walked, that was the end for League (1-2). Paul Maholm, who hadn’t pitched in five days, came on but was greeted with a run-scoring double by Gaby Sanchez.
League left the mound, of course, to still more boos.
Haren went six innings, giving up three runs on eight hits. He did not walk a batter and struck out two.