If you play with fire, you get burned.
Caleb Ferguson found that out the hard way as the Dodgers rallied from three different four-run deficits, but fell short of the final comeback in an 11-9 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night at PNC Park.
Following four consecutive wins that saw the Boys in Blue bolt back to .500 at a superluminal pace, the Dodgers turned to 21-year-old rookie Caleb Ferguson to hopefully continue the team's winning ways.
Unfortunately for Ferguson, he let his emotions get the best of him in his Big League debut, allowing four runs on two hits with three walks, two hit by pitches, three strikeouts and one backbreaking double in just 1 and 2/3 innings.
"It was really exciting to see him out there, but obviously with his adrenaline and emotions there was a lot going on," admitted Dodgers' manager Dave Roberts about his young pitcher. "For me, that second inning he was up to 39 pitches in one inning and I didn't want to put him in any more stress."
Ferguson got ahead of Josh Harrison to start the game, but then hit the Pirates second baseman with a curveball before allowing a single to Austin Meadows.
"I got two strikes on a ton of guys and the walks and hit by pitches are going to kill you," said Ferguson. "At this level, the guys are going to hit your mistakes. If I just execute one pitch, it could have been different."
Ferguson got out of the inning, recording his first Major League strikeout.
But it was all downhill from there, as Ferguson started the second inning the same way he started the first, by hitting Corey Dickerson before issuing free passes to Colin Moran and Sean Rodriguez.
The Pirates then ended a 19 inning scoreless streak when Harrison burned Ferguson with a base clearing, three-run double that ended the rookie's debut and gave the Pirates a 3-0 lead.
"It's not how I planned for it to go," said Ferguson of his debut. "It's nice to go out there and get the first one out of the way, even though it didn't go the way you want, I have to get back to work tomorrow and get ready for the next one."
With the Dodgers trailing 4-0 entering the top of the third inning, Matt Kemp cut the lead in half with a two-run double, and Cody Bellinger followed a few pitches later with a game-tying two-run home run.
But the bullpen would wilt in the following two innings as Daniel Hudson and Brock Stewart each allowed two runs to give the Pirates another four-run lead, 8-4.
Once again, it was Dodgers MVP Matt Kemp who brought the Boys in Blue back from the brink with a three-run home run in the top of the fifth inning to tie Bellinger with a team-high 10 homers on the season.
"I don't think we're ever out of a game, especially the way our offense has been swinging the bat," Kemp said. "It was a tough day today. They scored a lot of runs. We tried to make it into a good game. We did. Came up short."
The Dodgers bullpen struggled the rest of the way, allowing three more runs to give the Pirates their third four-run lead, 11-7. The bullpen allowed seven runs in total.
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"I thought we competed offensively and did a lot of things well. Matt obviously had another big night, but there's only so much an offense can do."The offense did what they could do, but overall we just didn't pitch well."
The Dodgers tried to claw their way back into the game with two runs in the top of the eighth, but the rally fell short in the top of the ninth after Kemp and Bellinger lined out to end the game.
The Dodgers eight-game winning streak on the road was snapped.
RHP Dennis Santana will make his first career MLB start for the Dodgers against RHP Jameson Taillon at 9:35AM PST on Thursday.
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