LOS ANGELES -- The weekend went from bad to worse for the Pirates and their pitchers Sunday.
Much, much worse.
It didn't matter who manager Clint Hurdle called upon in Sunday's 15-1 thrashing at the hands of the Dodgers. The crooked numbers kept popping up on the right-field scoreboard as the Los Angeles offense kept pounding out hits.
"We were challenged dramatically over the weekend," said Hurdle, whose Pirates lost the final three games of the series by a combined score of 28-4, after winning the opener on Thursday. "They put the bat to us. They beat us off the mound, they shut our offense down, and they beat us up with the bats."
Hurdle took most of the responsibility upon himself, noting that his fatigued ballclub hasn't lost any desire as the season moves slowly toward its end.
"These guys, they all care, they all want to, but when you watch the game there's a disconnect going on," Hurdle said. "That's on me. I gotta get that better and we've got to show up better in Arizona."
The 15 runs allowed matched a season-high and the 23 hits were the most Pirates pitchers have given up since they surrendered 25 on April 22, 2010, against Milwaukee. In total, Hurdle used eight pitchers, which tied a club record.
The Dodgers jumped out to a 9-0 lead by the second inning and an 11-0 lead by the third as seemingly every ball they put in play was hit hard in a hole or a gap.
"This game is very humbling," Pirates starter Brad Lincoln said. "It's just one of those games that just got away from us, and we couldn't take control of it. It all started with me."
It wasn't a pretty weekend for Pittsburgh pitchers, to begin with. For the starters alone, Friday was bad, Saturday was worse as neither Jeff Locke nor James McDonald worked past the third inning.
Sunday was a flat-out disaster, though, as the bullpen offered no relief for Lincoln, who recorded fewer outs (five) than runs allowed (six).
"It was just one of those days," said Lincoln of the shortest start of his career. "I didn't have my stuff. Everything I seemed to throw at them, they seemed to hit."
Dee Gordon led off the game with a stand-up triple, Matt Kemp homered two batters after Gordon and Jerry Sands singled in a run later in the inning. By the end of the first, Lincoln had thrown 33 pitches and had dug himself a three-run deficit.
Fortunately for manager Clint Hurdle, the team is carrying 18 pitchers as a result of the September callups, so Lincoln's early hook didn't decimate the bullpen. But it certainly came close.
"They don't come along too often," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said of the blowout victory. "We got into their 'pen the last couple of days."
For Hurdle, the most troubling number on a box score full of them, was the 218 pitches it took for his pitchers to get through nine innings. He noted that when the team was in the thick of the National League Central race in July, it was, for the most part, thanks to its pitching.
"It's been a tale of two seasons all over the place," Hurdle said. "For 100 games, our pitching was our staple and our defense followed that, and we found a way to scratch out runs. We've collectively just struggled in all those areas."
Second baseman Neil Walker kept coming back to one word while describing what it was like being on the wrong end of Sunday's beatdown: miserable.
"We're competitors, and this is miserable," he said. "It's awful. There's no other way you can put it besides a miserable day at the ballpark."
When he was asked what the worst part about the game was he responded by saying, "pitching, hitting, fielding."
The day turned almost comically dismal in the fifth inning. On a routine fly ball to right-center field, a miscommunication between Xavier Paul and Alex Presley allowed the ball to drop directly between the two, about a yard away from each of them.
On a Sunday afternoon where almost nothing went the Bucs' way, the miscue seemed all too fitting. To Walker, it's just part of what the Bucs will have to forget about as soon they board a plane headed to Arizona.
"Today is one game, but like I said before this has been a tough couple months for us, especially mentally and physically," Walker said. "Days like today, they don't feel good. We've got to pick ourselves up and finish the season strong."
AJ Cassavell is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.