For the Pittsburgh Pirates to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in four of five games – as they have this season – everything has to be perfect.
In the Pirates’ second straight win over the National League’s top team — a 5-3 victory Tuesday night before a raucous crowd of 52,686 at Dodger Stadium — it took:
• Some bursts of power in the form of two-run homers from Michael Chavis and Tucupita Marcano that gave the Pirates a 4-0 lead at the end of the second inning.
• Clutch, if erratic, launched by starter Mitch Keller, who tries to gain the trust of manager Derek Shelton in order to stay in the rotation. To that end, he may have found new ground that could help make it happen.
• Solid relief outings totaling four innings from four pitchers (none of them was named David Bednar, by the way). Tyler Beede, Duane Underwood Jr., Chris Stratton and Wil Crowe allowed two hits – and no earned runs. They combined to pull off six. Stratton hit the team in the eighth and Crowe made his second save with a 1-2-3 ninth. Added bonus: None of the four threw more than 20 pitches, which could leave them available Wednesday night.
• A solid pitch from rookie right fielder Jack Suwinski, who nailed the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman trying to stretch a single into a double to lead the seventh inning of a game to one run. “It was the game of the game,” manager Derek Shelton said. “It has to be perfect. It has to be online.
• Three singles from receiver Tyler Heineman, who was 1 for 17 heading into the game. The third preceded Marcano’s sacrificial bunt and a two-out RBI brace from Bryan Reynolds for a big insurance run in the ninth inning. It was a welcome clutch shot by Reynolds, who was 2 for his previous 32 appearances with runners in scoring position.
It all adds up to a second series win for the Pirates (21-27) over the Dodgers (33-16) in the past three weeks, with one more game to play.
“I can’t really give an exact reason why,” Chavis said when asked to explain the Pirates’ success against the Dodgers. “But I can say it shows what we are capable of. It takes everyone and it was fun to be part of it. Needless to say, this is the start of the season. We have a lot of ball to play. »
Keller, who has been working from the bullpen recently, made his first start since May 13 and earned his first win of the season as a starter. But he walked five batters and hit another in five innings. He allowed just two hits – a two-run homer from Trea Turner – and struck out five batters.
But he was good when it mattered most. He retired Mookie Betts, a former American League MVP and the current NL home run leader (15), with a fly ball at third base with a runner at second in the fourth.
In the fifth, Keller knocked out Will Smith and Edwin Rios looking for the last of his 98 pitches. Both times, Keller took out his new pitch — a sinker — to land the third strike.
“It’s something we talked about and worked on,” Shelton said. “It’s something we played with, Mitch talked about it, him and Oscar (pitching coach Marin) started talking about it, we played with it in the bullpen. He unveiled it and it seemed like a really effective pitch.
“What was important was that his four seams (fastball) stayed 94 to 97 (mph). His lead remained 94 to 97.”
Keller said he tried it once in Chicago on May 18, but he hit the Cubs’ Willson Contreras with the pitch.
He didn’t use it much until Tuesday, when he threw it more than any pitch (35% of the time). But he also threw a four seam, slider, curve and change in an attempt to keep the Dodgers guessing.
“Definitely not back on track,” said Keller, who lowered his ERA to 5.77. “Just keep rolling with this one and keep going for the next one. Try to keep the trust and let my business run in the zone.
“I still don’t feel like my order on (lead) is really good. A few of these locations I was trying to go in the middle of and they were backdoors called strike 3. It’s still not where I want it to be, but I feel comfortable where I have more leeway with the terrain.
“If I leave him in the middle of the zone or in the zone, he has enough movement to throw the batters off balance.”
The throw kept the game close, but there was a lot more to the win, like Marcano’s bunt, Reynolds’ RBI brace and Suwinski’s throw that pleased Shelton.
The manager praised his young squad for being “fundamentally sound”, and he also liked how they responded in a very charged atmosphere in front of a large crowd.
“You’re playing in probably as good an atmosphere as you’re going to be playing in all year,” he said. “For our young children to be able to do this and perform, it’s important for our growth as we continue to develop.”
Jerry DiPaola is an editor at Tribune-Review. You can contact Jerry by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .