PITTSBURGH — The Dead Ball Era lives.
The Dodgers were held to four hits at PNC Park on Monday night, watching their best offensive efforts die in the gloves of Pirates outfielders in a 5-1 loss. The Dodgers narrowly avoided their first shutout loss of the season with a pinch-hit home run by Edwin Rios in the ninth inning.
The loss ended a six-game winning streak for the Dodgers and was their first loss to the Pirates since June 2018 (ending a 16-game winning streak over them).
The Dodgers hit six balls with an exit velocity of more than 100 mph in the first eight innings. Only one of them resulted in a hit – a single by Trea Turner in the fifth inning.
“That’s just baseball, man. That’s the way it goes sometimes,” said Justin Turner, who had two of the hardest-hit balls of the game – but went 0 for 3.
Is it just baseball, man – or is it just the baseball, man? Suppressed offensive numbers through the first month of the season – and the nightly compilation of evidence dying on warning tracks throughout baseball – have made it the conspiracy theory du jour that baseball has de-juiced the baseballs.
“There’s nothing we can do about it,” Turner said. “We can talk about it all we want but until something happens it doesn’t really affect us. We’ve still got to find ways to get hits and drive guys in.”
The Dodgers hit 3,879 feet worth of fly balls that resulted in outs in Monday’s loss. But adjusting swings in some attempt to outsmart the baseball is not the way to go, Turner said.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “It’s the same goal. You go up there and try to hit a ball hard somewhere. We hit a lot of balls hard tonight. Tip your cap to them. They played really good defense.”
Justin Turner’s 105.9 mph drive to left field in the first inning had the look of an RBI double (and an expected batting average of .930, according to Statcast) – until Pirates left fielder Ben Gamel made a tumbling catch at the warning track.
Trea Turner’s 101.5 mph fly ball in the third inning had an expected batting average of .700 before settling into the glove of Pirates center fielder Jake Marisnick. Chris Taylor’s 103.7 mph drive later that inning met the same fate on a diving catch by Marisnick in left-center field.
Marisnick eventually left the game with a thumb injury suffered on the play. And Taylor later left the game after suffering a bone bruise when he fouled a ball off the inside of his left knee in his next at-bat.
“It’s baseball. That happens,” Taylor said. “You have to give their defense credit. They made some good plays and they cover a lot of ground in the outfield. But you know, it wasn’t our day. Maybe we’ve had some breaks go our way the last six or seven games and tonight it didn’t.”
Justin Turner squared up another ball in the fifth inning, sending a 103.4 mph ground ball right at third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes for an inning-ending forceout with two runners on base.
“I’m not worried about the results. I’m just happy with swinging at good pitches and hitting balls hard,” Justin Turner said after his batting average tumbled to .168 after another hitless night. “Obviously, you feel a little bit better afterwards if you get a good result out of it. Still, it’s nice going to the dugout after hitting a ball hard and making an out versus weak contact or chasing something.”
The Dodgers went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position in the game, struck out seven times and flew out those 12 times against Pirates starter Jose Quintana and three relievers.
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The Pirates had far better luck getting baseballs to land on grass – or over the fence.
They had 11 hits against Dodgers starter Julio Urias and 15 in all – including home runs by catcher Michael Perez and outfielder Jack Suwinski (his first in the majors).
Urias bobbed and weaved for his six-plus innings, somehow holding the Pirates to just one run before Perez’s homer despite all the baserunners. Mookie Betts helped him, throwing Bryan Reynolds out when he tried to go first-to-third on Michael Chavis’ single in the first inning.
The Pirates pulled away with another run in the seventh and Suwinski’s two-run home run in the eighth.
“I thought we hit some balls well. We just had nothing to show for it,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I think it is what it is. I think that we all know there’s a difference (in the baseball this season). But they hit a couple of balls out. Eddie hit one out. But yeah, there were some balls that I thought could have been rewarded – on both sides, actually. And it just didn’t happen.”