LOS ANGELES--You can go back to covering your eyes when Brandon League pitches.
Just when Dodgers fans had started to peek out between their fingers, League gave up back-to-back RBI singles with two outs as the Pittsburgh Pirates scored three times in the seventh inning to break a tie and hand the Dodgers a 6-3 defeat Thursday night in the opener of a four-game series at Dodger Stadium.
Banished to low-leverage -- or no-leverage at all -- situations at the start of the season, League had won his way back into Manager Don Mattingly's confidence and worked his way toward the back of the Dodgers' bullpen again.
After Dan Haren went six innings, League was summoned to pitch the seventh inning of a tie game. He brought with him a 13-inning scoreless streak spread over his previous 11 appearances and a stretch of 16 appearances (22 innings) during which he had allowed just one unearned run.
He got the first two outs (thanks in part to a stolen-base call overturned by replay) but Josh Harrison and Neal Walker came through with the tiebreaking back-to-back RBI singles. After a walk to Andrew McCutchen, League was pulled in favor of Paul Maholm, who gave up an RBI double to pinch-hitter Gaby Sanchez.
The Dodgers were outhit, 12-7, scoring single runs in the first inning on a triple by Andre Ethier and bloop double by Yasiel Puig, in the second on an RBI single by Dee Gordon, and in the sixth on an RBI single by Hanley Ramirez after another Puig double.
Puig was 2 for 4 with two doubles, extending his streak of reaching base to 30 games (and 45 of 49 games this season) and raising his batting average in May to .410 (41 for 100).
The loss was the Dodgers' first to the Pirates at Dodger Stadium since Sept. 2011, ending a nine-game home winning streak against them that was the third-longest active streak in the majors.
Right-hander Chris Withrow was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque last week in order to clear a roster spot when left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu came off the DL. He never made it there.
Instead, Withrow went to see Dr. Neal ElAttrache about discomfort he had been experiencing in his elbow. ElAttrache diagnosed Withrow with a torn ulnar collateral ligament and recommended he undergo Tommy John surgery. Withrow elected to seek a second opinion. But the likelihood is the hard-throwing right-hander will be loss for the rest of the season and well into 2014 if he does undergo the ligament-replacement surgery.
"He got caught in a little bit of a numbers game. It wasn't that he didn't deserve to be here," Mattingly said of last week's demotion. "It is a blow because we know it's a power arm and it's a guy who had success for us in our playoff run last year and you saw how I used him this year – into the eighth inning, in the seventh inning.
"This is a guy we're going to miss."
Mattingly said Withrow had been closely monitored since he came up from the minors last season because "you never knew how he was going to bounce back the next day" following an appearance. Withrow had a 2.95 ERA and 28 strikeouts and just 10 hits in 211/3 innings this season. But he also walked 18.
"It's probably something he pitched with for a while, up to a point, and it obviously got progressively worse for him until he finally said something to someone that he wanted someone to take a look at it," Mattingly said.
Right-hander Chad Billingsley moved a step forward in his recovery from Tommy John surgery 13 months ago.
Billingsley threw two 15-pitch innings to hitters Jamie Romak and Chone Figgins in a simulated-game setting. It was Billilngsley's first time throwing to hitters since his rehab assignment was shut down after one inning for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga on April 6. Billingsley received a platelet-rich plasma injection for tendinitis in his elbow following that game.
"It definitely felt good to get back out there and face hitters again," Billingsley said. "It's been a long time not being able to play in games – 13 months. I don't really feel like a baseball player any more. It's been a long process."
Billingsley said he felt rusty throwing to Romak and Figgins but "my arm feels great." He expects to throw at least one more simulated game to build up his pitch count before going out on another rehab assignment.
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