PITTSBURGH — After a dominant sweep of the Cubs to begin their six-game road trip, the Dodgers were unable to capitalize on that momentum, dropping two out of three to the rebuilding Pirates following a 5-3 loss on Wednesday at PNC Park.
The Dodgers are 10-7 on the road this season and have now dropped a series to the Rockies, D-backs and Pirates. All three teams missed the playoffs last season and, on paper, didn’t have high expectations coming into 2022.
But with the Dodgers expected to be one of the best teams in the Majors, Los Angeles is getting accustomed to getting opponents’ best shots, especially away from Dodger Stadium.
“I think you can look at each game individually and outside of that first night, really didn’t give ourselves a chance to win here,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “But we’ve got to find ways to win on the road. I expect us to be much better on the road moving forward.”
Here are three takeaways from the Dodgers’ loss:
Pepiot makes Major League debut
With the Dodgers needing a spot starter, Ryan Pepiot, the organization’s No. 6 overall prospect per MLB Pipeline, made his anticipated debut. The right-hander, who had about 25 family members and friends in attendance, struck out three and walked five over three scoreless innings.
“It was exciting. A lot of nerves,” Pepiot said. “But I didn’t make some of the pitches I wanted to, got myself into some traffic. But when I needed to, I was able to make some pitches to limit the damage.”
Pepiot needed just four pitches to record his first big league strikeout. He turned to his signature changeup to get Pirates outfielder Ben Gamel swinging. The stuff that made him one of the game’s top pitching prospects was evident. But so were some of the command issues that he has dealt with over the last few seasons.
The right-hander walked at least one batter in all three of his innings. He also hit a batter in the second. Pepiot needed 77 pitches to get through his outing, only 40 of them going for strikes. He did, however, manage to get All-Star outfielder Bryan Reynolds swinging to strand the bases loaded in the second.
“There were some misfires, just didn’t have the command, walked some batters,” Roberts said. “But he made pitches when he needed to. … I was happy for him and it was a big moment.”
Ríos continues to make case for extra at-bats
With the Dodgers carrying a stacked lineup that consists of mostly everyday players, there haven’t been many opportunities for Edwin Ríos this season. But when getting his chance, Ríos has not disappointed.
Ríos came through with the Dodgers’ big hit, a three-run double to tie the game in the seventh. The Puerto Rican infielder went 5-for-10 with a homer and seven RBIs in the three-game series against the Pirates.
“I had a good feeling about it when runners got on base,” Ríos said. “I just tried to hit the ball hard, swing at strikes and I was able to do that.”
With Justin Turner and Max Muncy still struggling, the Dodgers could lean on Ríos more moving forward, particularly during the current stretch of 31 games in 30 days. In just over a month, Ríos has proven that the shoulder issue that ended his ‘21 season is in the past.
“He’s prepared,” Roberts said. “Obviously I see that and he’s earning himself some more playing time. … Eddie’s doing fantastic.”
Rare bad day for bullpen
The Dodgers’ bullpen has been nearly flawless through 28 games, but the unit suffered one of its few off days.
After Pepiot’s start, Evan Phillips and Alex Vesia managed to keep the Pirates off the board for a couple more innings. But Tommy Kahnle, Daniel Hudson and Brusdar Graterol weren’t as sharp as the Dodgers have come to expect.
Kahnle, who was making his first appearance in a week, gave up a solo homer to Jack Suwinski and a two-run homer to Josh VanMeter to give the Pirates a 3-0 lead. In just his third appearance of the season, Kahnle said his fastball still isn’t where it needs to be.
In the eighth, Daniel Vogelbach gave the Pirates the lead again with a solo homer off Hudson. It was the first time this season the Dodgers’ pitching staff allowed three homers in a game.
“That ended up kind of being the ballgame,” Roberts said.
And the end of a frustrating trip to Pittsburgh.