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Ryan Pepiot’s debut inefficient but scoreless as Dodgers drop rubber game to Pirates

Dodgers rookie Ryan Pepiot threw three scoreless innings in his major league debut Wednesday at Pittsburgh.
Dodgers rookie Ryan Pepiot threw three scoreless innings in his major league debut Wednesday at Pittsburgh.
(Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

Ryan Pepiot’s MLB debut began with a flash of potential.

In his first career start with the Dodgers on Wednesday afternoon, Pepiot dispatched Pittsburgh Pirates leadoff hitter Ben Gamel on four pitches, getting ahead with a tailing 95-mph fastball before fanning him with a trademark changeup that darted out of the strike zone.

The rest of the day wasn’t nearly as simple for the 24-year-old right-hander, who walked five batters and hit another while throwing 77 pitches in three innings.

Yet, Pepiot escaped each predicament, pitching his way out of every dangerous situation to keep the Pirates scoreless in his first big-league outing.

“A lot of emotions, adrenaline,” said Pepiot, the team’s No. 2-ranked pitching prospect according to MLB Pipeline. “But when I needed to, I was able to make some pitches to limit the damage.”

The rest of the Dodgers pitching staff wasn’t so lucky, faltering down the stretch in the team’s 5-3 rubber-match loss to the Pirates in front of 11,105 at PNC Park.

Three innings after Pepiot left the mound, the Pirates broke open a scoreless game when Jack Suwinski and Josh VanMeter hit home runs off Dodgers reliever Tommy Kahnle.

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Dodgers manager Dave Roberts announced pitcher Ryan Pepiot will make his major league debut Wednesday against the Pirates in Pittsburgh.

After the Dodgers rallied to tie the score, the Pirates went in front again thanks to a solo blast by Daniel Vogelbach in the seventh inning and an insurance run against Brusdar Graterol in the eighth.

It was the first time all season the Dodgers had given up three home runs, and the first time their bullpen was charged for five runs.

“It was certainly uncharacteristic,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of the bullpen after his team’s first series loss to the Pirates since 2016. “I thought it was the right guys. We just didn’t execute.”

Appearing for the first time in a week, and making only his third outing since returning from Tommy John surgery, all of the damage against Kahnle came in a five-pitch stretch. After Suwinski launched a first-pitch fastball out to left, Kahnle plunked Diego Castillo before throwing another first-pitch heater that VanMeter crushed in the next at-bat.

“I don’t feel like it’s quite there yet,” Kahnle said of his fastball. “There were a couple games where I felt pretty good. I felt good today too, but didn’t feel like it was coming out right.”

The Pirates let the Dodgers rally in the next half-inning. After a couple walks and an error loaded the bases, Edwin Ríos hit a three-run double to tie the score. He finished the series with seven RBIs.

The Dodgers, however, squandered another bases-loaded opportunity to end the top of the seventh. With one out, Will Smith lined out sharply to shortstop. In the next at-bat, Max Muncy struck out looking, watching a full-count changeup — the fourth of the seven-pitch battle — go right down the middle.

Roberts said he was surprised Muncy didn’t swing: “I was taken aback by that because it was a good pitch to hit.”

Pirates' Josh VanMeter scores past Dodgers catcher Will Smith on a fielder's choice.
Pirates’ Josh VanMeter scores past Dodgers catcher Will Smith on a fielder’s choice during the eighth inning in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
(Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press)

Muncy said he was looking for a fastball: “I just assumed he didn’t have the guts to throw another changeup.”

In the next half-inning, Vogelbach went deep on a misplaced inner-half fastball from Daniel Hudson, putting the Pirates back in front. Then their closer, David Bednar, retired all six he faced in a two-inning save.

“I thought we played a good ballgame,” Roberts said. “I’d like to have some pitches back.”

Although Pepiot’s debut wasn’t dominant either, he still came away encouraged with his first MLB display.

After giving up a walk and single in the first inning, the former third-round draft pick got a pop out to retire the side. He loaded the bases with two walks and a hit batter in the second, but retired the side with his third and final strikeout of the day.

In the third inning, Pepiot’s command — especially with a fastball that too often ran too far off the right side of the plate — continued to elude him as he walked two more batters. However, he survived again, retiring the side on a deep fly ball.

The Dodgers racked up 15 hits with eight doubles in the 11-1 win over the Pirates on Tuesday in Pittsburgh.

“It just was nice to be able to trust myself, like ‘OK, I got myself in the situation, get out of it,’ ” said Pepiot, who had about 25 friends and family members in the stands. “Definitely helps that I came out of that unscathed.”

But, his early exit left a lot of work to the Dodgers bullpen too. For one of the first times this season, they couldn’t deliver. And a day that started with excitement for the future ended with a disappointing finish to a 4-2 trip.

“People bring their best to beat us,” Roberts said. “But we’ve got to find ways to win on the road.”


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