04/08/10 12:42 AM ET
Miscue in 10th does in Dodgers
DeWitt's error sets up Cedeno's game-winner in extras
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
"I wasn't very good," said Clayton Kershaw, who got it started.
"I didn't make the play, and it cost us," said second baseman Blake DeWitt, whose error on Lastings Milledge's leadoff bouncer in the 10th inning set the stage for Ronny Cedeno's one-out bases-loaded walk-off single off losing reliever Ramon Ortiz.
In between, the Dodgers watched their bullpen throw more innings more effectively than their starter. One game after Vicente Padilla lasted only 4 1/3 frames, Kershaw needed 109 pitches and couldn't get out of the fifth either.
The lefty served up a three-run homer in the first inning to Garrett Jones, who now has three against the Dodgers in the first two games. In 4 2/3 innings, Kershaw walked six, including opposing pitcher Ross Ohlendorf twice, and was bailed out of a bases-loaded mess by Jeff Weaver in the fifth.
"I pretty much battled myself the whole game," said Kershaw. "Sometimes you just get out of rhythm, and it's tough to find it. I just wasn't good tonight. No excuse for it. Sometimes it just happens."
He conceded he was "amped up" in that three-run first inning, "but I feel I settled in fine. Just too many walks is what it all came down to. I wasn't giving our team a chance. I walked the pitcher twice. Just terrible. A lot of things went wrong for me that I've just got to get better at."
Manager Joe Torre said Kershaw was overthrowing and wasn't smooth, but he also praised him for minimizing the damage after spotting the Pirates a quick three.
The Dodgers' bullpen kept the game close. After Weaver's one-pitch bailout, Russ Ortiz threw two scoreless innings, helping himself by starting a slick double play on a comebacker. George Sherrill was brought into a tied game in the eighth inning by Torre and left the contest still tied after a scoreless frame, feeling he's finally figured out the mechanical flaw that dogged him all spring. Ramon Troncoso returned from the birth of his first child and threw a scoreless ninth inning.
Offensively, the Dodgers were able to battle back from a three-run hole. Russell Martin, who went 69 games until his first home run last season, drove the club's first one the opposite way to lead off the fifth inning. Matt Kemp had an RBI double and Andre Ethier delivered an RBI single to tie the game at 3.
But the Dodgers were only 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position, and they stranded 12 runners. They had runners in scoring position in four of the last five innings and the telling rally that fizzled was in the ninth after Jamey Carroll led off with a pinch-hit double and advanced to third on a wild pitch. But Pirates closer Octavio Dotel got Rafael Furcal on a comebacker, Kemp on a called third strike and then admitted he pitched around Ethier with a walk because he preferred to face Manny Ramirez, who grounded out.
"After two outs, Ethier was the guy that I had to face," said Dotel. "I'd rather walk this guy and face Manny -- righty against righty. I didn't want to give him [Ethier] anything good, because he's a great hitter, too. That's why I didn't give anything good to Ethier. It's hard to face Manny, too, but it's a better chance."
Then came the fatal error in the 10th. DeWitt took a couple steps to his backhand and dropped Milledge's bouncer, then pulled first baseman James Loney off the bag with a rushed throw that wasn't in time anyway. DeWitt also dropped a backhand play leading off the third inning on Andrew McCutchen's hard smash, but that was a tougher play (scored a hit) and it didn't lead to a run.
DeWitt's error on Milledge's ball led directly to a second loss in as many games.
"That's a play I should make 100 times out of 100," DeWitt said of Milledge's bouncer. "It cost us. It's unfortunate when it happens. No excuses, I just didn't make the play. It's got to be made, especially in that situation, and I just couldn't get it done. It hurts, but you can't do anything about it now. We have to come back strong tomorrow and finish off with a win."
After Jeff Clement's sacrifice bunt, Ramon Ortiz walked Andy LaRoche and Ryan Church to load the bases for Cedeno. Ortiz got ahead, 0-2, but Cedeno fouled off four pitches before lining his hit over Furcal for the unearned run.
"I wanted to throw the pitch inside, but it stayed in the middle of the plate," said Ortiz. "I walked two guys, but I feel good. I don't change anything. I say, it's the game. I don't put my head down."
DeWitt's inability to convert routine plays is a reminder why Torre waited so long in Spring Training to name the converted third baseman his primary second baseman. DeWitt is following a Gold Glove winner in Orlando Hudson. The Dodgers aren't expecting anything like that from him, but as DeWitt said, the routine plays must be made.
Torre was gentle in his assessment of DeWitt and gave no indication that DeWitt's status as the starting second baseman would change.
"I don't think you fault him for his inexperience on that, it was just an error," said Torre. "I'm not defending him, but I don't think second base had anything to do with it. We have a lot of confidence in him. He's certainly gone out, he knows what to do. That boot could happen anywhere."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.