It was difficult to tell which was deteriorating more quickly Friday night at a soggy Dodger Stadium, the field conditions or the Dodgers’ ability to execute baseball fundamentals.
Playing through a steady rain that delayed the start of the game 16 minutes, the Dodgers committed several baserunning blunders and three errors, two of which led to three Pittsburgh runs in the seventh inning of the Pirates’ 5-3 victory.
The sorry display, which unfolded before the remnants of a sellout crowd of 53,820 attracted in large part by the prospect of free Eric Gagne bobblehead dolls, could not be blamed entirely on the weather, though Dodger Manager Jim Tracy said it played a significant factor.
“I would look at tonight as being very uncharacteristic as far as a weather standpoint in Los Angeles,” Tracy said, “and some very unfortunate things due to the conditions of how tough it was as we went along.”
The Dodgers were going for their fourth victory in four tries against Pittsburgh after sweeping the Pirates last weekend at PNC Park, but there was little chance of that after Pittsburgh broke the game open in the seventh with three unearned runs off Paul Quantrill (0-1).
The Dodgers scored a run in their half of the inning on Alex Cora’s single to center to close to within 5-3 but couldn’t mount a threat in the eighth or ninth.
Kenny Lofton started the Pirates’ rally in the seventh with a hard grounder that squirted past first baseman Fred McGriff for an error. Jack Wilson followed with a hit-and-run single past shortstop Cesar Izturis, who was scrambling to cover second base.
Jason Kendall scored Lofton with a single to left but was then erased on Aramis Ramirez’s fielder’s choice. Reggie Sanders then grounded into what looked like an inning-ending double play, but after Quantrill threw to Cora for the first out at second, Cora’s throw to first was wide of McGriff. Wilson scored on the error and Sanders took second.
Craig Wilson then delivered a single to right-center that brought Sanders home.
Dodger starter Kazuhisa Ishii left after an uneven five innings. He gave up only three hits and two runs (one earned) but issued a season-high six walks, reverting to his erratic form of last season. He also tied his season high with seven strikeouts.
Ishii said the wet conditions were not a factor during an outing in which he threw only 49 of his 96 pitches for strikes.
He walked two batters in each of the first and second innings but escaped unscathed. But his fifth walk contributed to Pittsburgh’s first run, in the third inning. Ishii fielded Jack Wilson’s leadoff grounder on the third-base side of the mound but could not throw to first after slipping on the wet grass. Kendall followed with a walk to put runners at first and second.
Ishii struck out Ramirez, with Wilson and Kendall advancing on a double steal on the third strike. Todd Hundley’s throw to second arrived before Kendall, but Kendall appeared to kick the ball out of Cora’s glove and into left field, allowing Wilson and Kendall to score. Hundley was charged with an error.
“We were of great assistance tonight in them getting five runs,” Tracy said.
The Dodgers tied the score at 2-2 with two runs in the fourth but could have had at least two more. Shawn Green hit a leadoff single and was thrown out at third after trying to advance on McGriff’s single up the middle. Brian Jordan followed with a double, scoring McGriff, and came home to tie the score on Hundley’s single to center.
Adrian Beltre moved Hundley to third with a double to left-center, but Beltre was then caught in a rundown during a failed suicide squeeze. Izturis tried to bunt Salomon Torres’ high-and-outside offering but couldn’t connect, leaving Beltre in a bind halfway between third and home. Izturis made the final out on a fly ball to center.
“I think the [squeeze] call was correct,” Tracy said. “Torres lost [control of] the breaking ball in the middle of his delivery.”