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By Jon Weisman
Shortly after high noon at Pittsburgh, the clock looked like it was going to strike an early midnight for Los Angeles.
The Pirates took a 4-0 lead in the first inning of today’s afternoon special, and the dark side of history had the drop. The Dodgers would need a big rally to avoid their first four-game sweep by the Pirates since 1944 (when it happened twice — in July and August). They were also trying to end an eight-game losing streak at PNC Park.
The last Dodger pitcher to win there was Hyun-Jin Ryu, who hasn’t appeared in an MLB game in more than 21 months.
But whatever flag the Dodgers will hoist this year, it won’t be white. With a run in the third inning and four in the fifth, the Dodgers bucked the Bucs, rallying for a 212-minute, 5-4 victory that was their 23rd comeback win of the season.
It’s hard not to wonder what’s going on with Scott Kazmir in the first inning. Historically, it hasn’t been a problem for him. In 2014 and 2015, the OPS against Kazmir in the opening frame has been .563 and .554.
But when Kazmir, clearly struggling to locate at the outset of today’s game, allowed four runs on three hits and three walks in the first inning today, that gave him a first-inning ERA of 9.00 in 2016.
“That was rough first inning, to say the least,” Kazmir said, via SportsNet LA. “I don’t know. Honestly, (I) didn’t feel like my energy was there. I don’t know if the heat zapped me or what. Just felt kind of underwater that first inning, and it seemed like as soon as I got in the dugout and was able to cool off, I was kind of woken up and ready after that. Just a complete change from how I felt.”
Then, after striking out Francisco Liriano with his 40th pitch of the first inning, Kazmir retired the next 12 Pirates on only 38 pitches. He had to escape a two-on, two-out jam in the fifth by fanning Starling Marte, but he bought enough time for the Dodgers to climb back into the lead.
Said Dave Roberts: “Scott was one hitter away from us trying to get eight innings out of our pen. But he beared down and made pitches.”
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In the third inning, the Dodgers got their first run when Chris Taylor tripled in his initial Dodger at-bat, and Justin Turner hit a sacrifice fly.
In the fifth, Kiké Hernandez’s third straight walk (a career high for one game) catalyzed a four-run inning. Cleanup hitter Yasiel Puig followed a Turner double and Trayce Thompson walk with a two-run single, before Howie Kendrick singled in Thompson to tie the game.
One out later, after Puig had advanced to third on an ill-fated pickoff attempt, A.J. Ellis brought him home on an infield single that shortstop Jordy Mercer couldn’t cleanly backhand.
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Five Dodger relievers combined for the final 12 outs, with Kenley Jansen getting the final four in his first game since June 21. Pittsbrugh had two hits and two walks after the first inning.