The Pirates landed the first blow Monday afternoon, jumping out to a big lead in the opening inning. But the Dodgers landed a pair of counters, silencing the Bucs' bats and rallying in the fifth to secure a 5-4 win at PNC Park.
"We salvaged the series," manager Dave Roberts said after the Dodgers avoided their first four-game sweep by Pittsburgh since 1944.
After one inning, Pittsburgh appeared to be well on its way to a much-needed four-game sweep. Dodgers starter Scott Kazmir labored through a four-run, 40-pitch first inning. But Kazmir calmed down in the following four innings, and the Dodgers' bullpen delivered a scoreless performance, with five pitchers holding the Pirates to one hit and two walks over four innings. Kenley Jansen did his part with a four-out save, his 22nd of the season.
"He just pitched better. He got downhill angle. He started throwing strikes. The changeup played. He was a completely different guy on the mound," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Kazmir. "Their bullpen has been one of their strengths. We got to see some of that this series. … The opportunities after the first, there weren't many."
Spotted the four-run lead, Pirates starter Francisco Liriano continued to struggle. The left-hander allowed five runs (four earned) on four hits and five walks in 4 1/3 innings. Liriano was unable to get through six innings for the fourth time in five starts this month, and the bullpen couldn't pick him up. Reliever Jared Hughes replaced Liriano in the Dodgers' four-run fifth inning, serving up a game-tying single to Howie Kendrick and the go-ahead hit toA.J. Ellis.
"We all know he's close. He's shown glimpses of it," Hughes said of Liriano. "Even today, it was good. If I could have gotten him out of it, it would have been even better."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED First strike: The Pirates quickly got to Kazmir, putting up four runs in the first inning -- three of them on a pair of unlikely plays. Starling Marte got things started with a line-drive single to right field, driving in leadoff man Jordy Mercer. With the bases loaded and two outs, Sean Rodriguez -- who walked twice (once intentionally) against Clayton Kershaw on Sunday night -- drew a bases-loaded walk to put the Bucs ahead by two. Then Erik Kratz swatted a two-run single into center field, his second hit as a Pirate.
"He's a guy that's aggressive with that fastball, and he was missing quite a bit up," Kratz said.
No way to start: Kazmir again fell victim to the early letdown, walking three during the laborious first. He bounced back, though, retiring 12 consecutive batters. His first-inning ERA this year is 9.00. After that, it's 3.93.
"Everything changed after the first inning," said Kazmir. "I got my release point down. The bullpen, what they did today, to keep us right there. And the offense to answer bell down four runs, it was a huge team win."
New role, new results: A day after making his first appearance since his move to the bullpen, right-hander Juan Nicasio pitched three scoreless innings to keep Pittsburgh within a run. Nicasio, who struggled through 12 inconsistent starts before moving to the bullpen, tossed a perfect seventh, worked around a leadoff walk in the eighth and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the ninth.
"Very promising," Hurdle said. "We've still got some work to do, but sure do like what we've seen the last two days out of him."
Rally walk: After Pittsburgh walked three times in its four-run first, the Dodgers walked twice in their four-run fifth, and scored the go-ahead run on Ellis' infield single. Both teams had two batters that walked come around the score.
QUOTABLE "This dude goes out there every five days, doesn't make one excuse. If anybody's going to turn it around, he's going to be the guy, for sure." -- Kratz, on Liriano
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS The Pirates have not swept a four-game series against the Dodgers since Aug. 20-22, 1944. The first two games of that series were played on Aug. 20, a doubleheader at Forbes Field.
Kazmir had not pitched against the Pirates since June 27, 2008, when he played for the Rays. The following year, Kazmir was traded to the Angels in a deal that included a player to be named later: Sean Rodriguez, who drew a run-scoring walk off Kazmir in the first inning.
WHAT'S NEXT Dodgers:Julio Urias' seventh Major League start comes against the Brewers, who he held to five scoreless innings with eight strikeouts two starts back. The 19-year-old is fun to watch, but he's still looking for his first win and is on a very short leash, meaning the bullpen is on call early. First pitch is scheduled for 5:10 p.m. PT on Tuesday.
Pirates: The Pirates headed west Monday night, beginning a nine-game road trip through Seattle, Oakland and St. Louis. Left-hander Jonathon Niese will start the first of the Bucs' two games against the Mariners at 10:10 ET on Tuesday. Niese's strong six-start stretch has come to a halt, as he's allowed 12 runs on 17 hits over 10 2/3 innings in his last two outings, both losses.