PITTSBURGH -- A day that started with the Los Angeles Dodgers thinking of moving Yasiel Puig to center field ended with a 12-7 defeat to the Pittsburgh Pirates that presented them with reasons to explore how they could upgrade their pitching staff.
As Puig and Hanley Ramirez continued to be sidelined on Tuesday by bruised left hands, Josh Beckett returned from the 15-day disabled list but failed to subside any concerns about how his 34-year-old body might hold up over the remainder the season.
Beckett made his shortest start of the year, lasting only 3 2/3 innings. He was charged with four runs and six hits, including solo home runs by Neil Walker, Ike Davis and Gregory Polanco.
Beckett's unsightly performance was the first of several for the Dodgers, the last of which let the game completely slip out of their grasp.
With what was once an 8-4 deficit reduced to 8-7, right-hander Chris Perez moved closer to pitching his way off the roster in a spectacular late-game meltdown.
Perez retired the first batter he faced, but walked the next four. He was replaced by Brandon League, who served up consecutive hits to Russell Martin and Ike Davis that drove in three runs.
All four runs that inning were charged to Perez, whose earned-run average inflated to 5.35.
He was charged with four runs in an eighth inning that included four consecutive walks.
The inning forced Manager Don Mattingly to defend his decision to not use dependable left-hander J.P. Howell instead of Perez.
"Our other guys have to be able to hold the score there," Mattingly said.
A former All-Star closer who was let go by the Cleveland Indians over the winter, Perez showed signs of improvement in recent weeks, as he allowed only one run in his last eight appearances.
"Definitely, tonight was a step backwards," Mattingly said.
Perez, Paul Maholm and Jamey Wright were charged with a combined eight runs.
Wright inadvertently placed shortstop Justin Turner in harm's way, as he struck Andrew McCutchen with a pitch in the Pirates' two-run sixth inning. Pirates reliever Justin Wilson retaliated by drilling Turner in the back with a 97-mph fastball in the seventh inning.
Wilson was ejected by home-plate umpire Toby Basner, as was Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle, who protested Wilson's dismissal.
Mattingly didn't think the ejections were necessary.
"I think we all understand what happened there," Mattingly said. "It was not a big deal. The only guy that probably didn't handle it was the home-plate umpire. He could have let that go and give warnings and it would have been over."
Wright plunked Russell Martin in the bottom of the seventh inning in what clearly looked like an accident: He hit Martin in the back with a looping curveball.
Beckett blamed himself for the how the game unfolded.
"Our bullpen doesn't deserve that," he said. "They shouldn't have to eat that many innings up."
Beckett landed on the disabled list because of tightness in his left hip, which has a torn labrum.
Clayton Kershaw had a similar condition two seasons ago. Kershaw recovered and avoided surgery. Beckett's immediate future remains uncertain.
Asked how his hip felt, Beckett replied, "Fine. That's not going to be an excuse going forward. I say I'm good to pitch, trainers say I'm good to pitch, that's not an excuse."
Beckett blamed his uncharacteristic performance on being "a little rusty."
Even before Beckett's hip turned into a significant impediment, the Dodgers were in the market for starting pitching leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. They also remain in search of bullpen reinforcements.
As for Puig's potential move from right field to center, the idea was inspired by Matt Kemp's play in right field Monday night. Kemp has spent the last couple of months in left field.
"I just thought he looked really comfortable," Mattingly said of Kemp. "He's always said that he felt better in right than left. It looked that way last night."
Mattingly wondered if the Dodgers could move Puig to center, so Kemp could remain in right when Puig returns.
The team's two current centerfielders, Andre Ethier and Scott Van Slyke, lack the athleticism normally associated with the position.
Asked why he hadn't previously thought of playing Puig in center field, Mattingly replied, "Pretty much because he's out of control most of the time. I don't mean it in a bad way, but I think he kind of scares the outfielders from the standpoint that he's not going to give up. He's going to go catch every ball. We've seen it in center when he's in right and he goes all the way into basically Van Slyke's area. I think that communication, at this point, is still not where it should be."
Pirates 12, Dodgers 7
KEY MOMENT: An eighth-inning solo home run by Scott Van Slyke reduced the Dodgers' deficit to 8-7, but right-hander Chris Perez unraveled spectacularly in a four-run eighth for the Pirates. Perez walked four consecutive batters, at which point he was replaced by Brandon League. The unraveling continued, as League served up consecutive run-scoring hits to former Dodgers catcher Russell Martin and Ike Davis.
AT THE PLATE: Adrian Gonzalez hit a two-run home run in the seventh inning that cut the Pirates' lead to 8-6. The home run was the Dodgers' first since light-hitting infielder Miguel Rojas hit one July 9. Gonzalez's last home run was July 1. Gonzalez drove in three runs and A.J. Ellis two.
ON THE MOUND: Josh Beckett lasted only 32/3 innings in his return from the disabled list. giving up four runs and six hits, including three solo home runs. Paul Maholm, Jamey Wright and Perez were charged with a combined eight runs.
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