Pirates 3, Dodgers 1
Snell shook off a run of subpar starts to limit the Dodgers to one run over eight innings and the Pirates overcame another bad night of baserunning blunders to beat Los Angeles 3-1 on Saturday night.
Three Pirates runners were thrown out at home plate -- two in a span of two batters -- and Pittsburgh couldn't score a runner from second base on a double for the second night in a row. But Snell (5-4) made up for the mistakes with his strongest start in more than a month, allowing six hits and working out of a major jam in the seventh.
"They had a couple of miscues out there base running, and that kind of kept us in the ballgame," the Dodgers' Luis Gonzalez said. "They only scored two in the first, where they could have did a lot more damage. Really, we had chances to stay in the game, we just couldn't get anything going against him."
Snell looked stronger as the game went on, striking out Wilson Betemit and Juan Pierre in the seventh to strand runners on second and third. He walked Rafael Furcal to start the eighth, then retired the final three batters he faced.
"I said to myself that, if I strike out the next two, I can get out of the [seventh] inning and that's what I did," Snell said. "I felt good, and I mixed a lot of pitches."
Snell struck out six and walked two in his best start since shutting out the Reds for seven innings on April 27. He had allowed three runs or more in each of his previous three starts after doing so only once in his first eight starts.
Matt Capps, in his first game as the Pirates closer, got the final three outs on only five pitches for his second career save.
With Xavier Nady giving Snell an extra run by homering in the sixth off Brett Tomko, the Pirates ended a three-game losing streak with only the second victory in their last seven home games. The Dodgers (32-23) had won seven of nine and were trying to move 11 games above .500 for the first time this season.
"This guy was tough," Dodgers manager Grady Little said of Snell, who lowered his ERA to 2.94. "That was some of the better stuff we've seen from a starter all season, from the first inning all the way until he was done. He made some awfully good pitches, he mixed his pitches and all four were quality."
Snell relied heavily on his fastball while giving up two runs in seven innings of an April 21 start in Los Angles. This time, he used his sinker more often and more effectively than he has all season.
"It was a fabulous pitching performance," manager Jim Tracy said. "Obviously, we needed all of it. We had some opportunities to put more points on the board, and we had some problems [on the bases]. But because of the job that kid did, he made the runs stand up."
Snell's clutch pitching in the seventh was a key, given how the Pirates may have run themselves out of two runs the inning before.
LaRoche was thrown out at the plate following a rundown on Jack Wilson's grounder to short. Then, with Snell at the plate, the Dodgers pitched out on successive pitches. The Pirates attempted a squeeze on the second pitch, allowing Lieberthal to tag out Paulino on the aborted bunt. Snell then struck out.
"We made some mistakes," Tracy said. "We'll clean it up."
Dodgers starter Hong-Chih Kuo (0-1) took the loss in his first start since Game 2 of the division playoffs against the Mets last season. Replacing Tomko in the rotation, Kuo gave up two runs in the first on three singles, a hit batter and a walk. Freddy Sanchez singled in one run and LaRoche walked with the bases loaded.
But the Pirates cost themselves a potential big inning when Ethier threw out Sanchez at the plate on Paulino's fly ball, and Kuo didn't allow any more scoring before being lifted with two out in the fifth.
"I overthrew a little, and I was behind in the count a lot," Kuo said. "I was a little nervous, the first time I was starting, and I tried to do my best. After the first, I was fine."
Little stayed with his plan of not starting C Russell Martin, even though Martin had homered in three consecutive games. Martin flied out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth. ... The Dodgers lost for only the sixth time in 24 games at PNC Park. ... Gonzalez went 0-for-4 to end a 10-game hitting streak. ... Jason Bay was 0-for-4 for Pittsburgh after going 16-of-31 in his previous eight games. ... Capps previously was 1-for-10 in career save opportunities, but the statistic is misleading because he usually entered the game as a setup reliever in the seventh or eighth. ... The Pirates signed former Tampa Bay right-hander Dewon Brazelton, who has an 8-25 career record, to a minor league contract.