PITTSBURGH — Brandon Cumpton catapulted from Triple-A anonymity to big league starter in a span of three days.
At the moment, the former Greenbrier star has no immediate plans to go back.
The Pittsburgh Pirates’ rookie starter put together five effective innings in his major league debut Saturday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and while the Pirates fell 5-3 in 11 innings they might have gained a bit of stability for their injury wracked pitching staff.
Filling in for ace A.J. Burnett and facing former Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, Cumpton, who play college ball at Georgia Tech, held his own.
“He gave us everything he had,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “He did a very professional job.”
One probably good enough for the 24-year-old to fill in again when Burnett’s turn in the rotation comes around next week. That decision won’t be made for a few days, though Cumpton hardly appeared overcome by the stage. He struck out five of the first six batters he faced and got off the hook for the loss when Travis Snider homered off reliever Kenley Jansen in the ninth.
“I felt like once I got up there and threw strike one it kind of settled things down a little bit,” said Cumpton, who allowed seven hits and was charged with three runs. He threw 76 pitches, 50 for strikes.
His effort didn’t go unnoticed. The Pirates, however, failed to provide the story- book ending, leaving 13 runners on base.
Juan Uribe singled home Andre Ethier in the top of the 11th inning to rally the Dodgers to the victory.
The Pirates went up 1-0 early when Alex Presley doubled leading off and then scored on a fielder’s choice. Pittsburgh put two runners on in the third and sixth innings, but failed to score, giving the Dodgers enough time to figure out Cumpton.
Skip Schumaker drove in A.J. Ellis in the fifth to tie the game before the Dodgers knocked Cumpton out in the sixth.
Adrian Gonzalez led off with a double and moved to third on former GreenJacket Hanley Ramirez’s single. Ethier drove home Gonzalez and Mark Ellis hit a sacrifice fly off reliever Justin Wilson, who replaced Cumpton, to put the Dodgers up 3-1.
Andre Ethier doubled off Vin Mazzaro (3-1) leading off the 11th inning, then raced home when Uribe’s chopper went over the head of third baseman Pedro Alvarez. Nick Punto drove in Uribe with a double to the gap one batter later.
Former Atlanta Braves reliever Peter Moylan (1-0) picked up the win after escaping a bases-loaded jam in the 10th. Brandon League recorded the final three outs for his 14th save.
“It was a little dejecting to see them score, but we quickly refocused,” Ethier said. “The one thing we didn’t want to try to do is swing for a home run to win the game. We just wanted to get on, get over and get in. We did a good job of executing there in the 11th inning.”
Kershaw scattered three hits over seven innings while lowering his ERA to a National League-leading 1.84, but failed to pick up his first win in three weeks when the Dodgers’ bullpen faltered.
Ethier finished 3 for 5 with an RBI and Skip Schumaker and Mark Ellis also drove in runs for Los Angeles, which won for just the fourth time in its last 16 road games.
“Right now, every win is good,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “It’s what we’ve been kind of talking about, staying afloat and treading water until we can put together some semblance of a winning streak.”
The Pirates had a chance to win it in the 10th when Neil Walker smacked a ball down the right-field line with Russell Martin on first. Los Angeles rookie right-fielder Yaisel Puig had trouble with the ball, but Martin was held at third by third base coach Nick Leyva even as Puig’s throw went well up line.
“I’m not going to sit here and second guess my third base coach on that particular play,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “He’s got to make a call much earlier than we do. We’ll never know.”
The Dodgers intentionally walked Pedro Alvarez and Mike McKenry flew out to right to extend the game.
League, who has blown four saves this season, nearly made it five. The Pirates put runners on second and third in the 11th, but Andrew McCutchen grounded out and Gaby Sanchez hit a sinking liner to left that Schumaker tracked down.
Kershaw is the third Cy Young winner the Pirates have faced in five days. Pittsburgh beat San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito on Tuesday and Wednesday, knocking both around in the process.
Not this time.
The Pirates went up 1-0 early when Alex Presley doubled leading off and then scored on a fielder’s choice. That would be about it. The Pirates put two runners on in the third and sixth innings, but couldn’t scratch out a run, giving the Dodgers enough time to figure out Cumpton.
“We had four different innings we needed a knock to do some damage,” Hurdle said. “We did everything but score. We ran the pitch count up, we got on base and when you’ve got guys like that on the mound you’ve got to find some two-out RBI.”
Schumaker drove in A.J. Ellis in the fifth to tie the game before Cumpton unraveled in the sixth.
Adrian Gonzalez led off with a double and moved to third on Hanley Ramirez’s single. Ethier drove home Gonzalez and Mark Ellis hit a sacrifice fly off reliever Justin Wilson to put the Dodgers up3-1.
Pittsburgh closed within a run in the eighth on an RBI single by Neil Walker, but reliever Paco Rodriguez got Alvarez to ground out meekly to first to end the threat.
Kenley Jansen came on in the ninth and blew his first save since inheriting the closer’s job from League when Snider took a 2-2 fastball and put it well into the center-field seats for his third homer of the year.
League allowed infield singles to Snider and Jordy Mercer in the 11th but survived.