The Los Angeles Dodgers try to continue their recent mastery of the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday, as they attempt to complete a three-game sweep of them at Dodger Stadium.
After blanking Pittsburgh on Friday, Clayton Kershaw turned in another brilliant performance on Saturday with seven scoreless innings and the Dodgers bullpen preserved a 1-0 shutout.
Kershaw (2-0) struck out nine and allowed just two hits and a walk. He has yet to give up a run through his first 16 innings of work this season. Brandon League spun a scoreless ninth to pick up his second save.
The Dodgers needed Kershaw to be great because the offense struggled, going just 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position and leaving 10 men on base. Mark Ellis provided the lone score with an RBI single in the third.
Pittsburgh was even worse at the plate, with Starling Marte recording the team's only two hits. Through the first five games, the Pirates have just 17 hits and have scored only six runs. They are also the only team in the league not to have hit a home run.
A.J. Burnett (0-2) was saddled with the loss, giving up one run on four hits and four walks. He struck out nine.
"That was a pitchers duel," said Burnett on his matchup with Kershaw. "That was the first time I've pitched against him. I want to go up against team's aces, that's what I'm here for. I was
Pittsburgh lost six of seven to the Dodgers last season and has dropped 17 of the last 20 overall in the series. The Pirates have also lost eight straight and 15 of their last 17 as the road team in this matchup.
Hoping to add to that on Sunday will be Korean left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, who lost his big league debut to the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday. Ryu gave up three runs (one earned) and 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings of that one. He also struck out five without walking a batter.
"I think he did a great job executing. A few hard hit balls fell in for hits and a few cheap ones as well," Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said. "But for the most part he kept his composure and he kept attacking the zone, which is what we want to see."
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, will counter with a lefty of its own in Jeff Locke, who was the Pirates' best starter this spring, going 3-1 with a 2.63 ERA and 15 strikeout sin 27 1/3 innings.
Locke appeared in eight games (6 starts) for the Pirates last season and was 1-3 with a 5.50 ERA.
"I feel super competitive now," Locke said. "Pitching an extended spring game on Tuesday in Florida, I was just thinking of getting some stuff done. Then a guy hit a home run, and I'm like, 'OK, it's time to beat those guys'.
"I feel ready. I've really prepared for this. There wasn't a whole lot I could have done to prepare. I just want to get out there and perform and impress."